Discovering Defects With Your Home: When Is It Consumer Fraud?
Many individuals and families these days are opting to purchase rather than rent, especially in the eastern states like Florida, where paying a mortgage can actually cost less than paying rent.
However, dealing with a real estate purchase carries with it a whole host of potential pitfalls, especially when it comes to consumer fraud and protection issues. A lot of what you know about your potential future home depends entirely on who is hired to inspect the home and what kind of findings they make, as well as what kind of disclosures the property seller(s) make. So what happens if you discover a defect after the fact, and it isn’t your fault?
Whether or not you have legal recourse if this happens depends upon a variety of factors, including:
- Should the seller, their agent, and/or the inspector have known about it, and told you beforehand, but they did not?
- What kind of evidence was there at the time of purchase that there might have been a specific problem?
- What, if anything, did the seller disclose to you about the problem?
- What, if anything, did the home inspector and/or follow-up specialist (for example, qualified contractor or engineer) say about the issue?
- What kind of aging and decaying has occurred since then that could have contributed to the problem?
- Will your homeowner’s insurance cover the problem?
The Law in Florida
Florida, like other states, has laws requiring that sellers disclose certain defects when it comes to property. This includes any facts or conditions that have a substantial impact on the property’s value or desirability which are not readily observable or known to the buyer. The seller failing to disclose these facts places them at risk of being sued for misrepresentation that amounts to fraud.
In this type of case, the buyers are also not required to prove the elements of fraud in order to obtain relief, only that the sellers knew of and failed to disclose that there had been material problems. There is no requirement to first prove that the nondisclosure is either fraudulent or negligent, only that the seller knew of a latent, material defect, and, by failing to disclose it, caused damages to the buyer.
But what kind of obligation to investigate does the buyer have? The buyer does not have to investigate every piece of information furnished, only information that a “reasonable person” in that position would be expected to investigate.
Commercial Litigators Committed To Protecting Consumers
There are both state and federal commercial laws to protect consumers from harmful practices. The attorneys at Lavalle, Brown & Ronan, P.A. have a combined 130 years of experience working in commercial law protecting consumers in the Boca Raton area. Contact us today for your free legal consultation and let us help guide you toward the best resolution of your case.