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Home disclosure statements can help you avoid trouble

From the day you decided you had found the house of your dreams, you began to receive and sign mountains of documents. While you were searching for a home that ticked off all the boxes on your wish list, you may not have had the time to research the real estate laws in Texas. You may not have understood that the law requires the sellers to provide you with a written statement disclosing certain defects in the house.

Texas disclosure laws are tougher than many states. Unless you are buying the house in a foreclosure sale or under certain other circumstances, you are entitled to know what the owners know about the condition of the house. Once you have moved into the home, you do not want to discover that the roof leaks or that the previous owners had been in a boundary dispute with their neighbor.

What must the seller disclose to me?

Every state has its own list of items a seller must disclose to you, usually very early in the purchase process, so you can make an informed decision about whether to go through with the purchase. The sellers do not have to search the house for defects or hire an inspector. They only need to disclose the problems about which they are aware.

The homeowners have no an obligation to tell you if anyone died in the home or whether they have experienced paranormal activity. You would not be entitled to know if a previous occupant suffered from HIV or AIDS or if a sex offender lives in the neighborhood. However, some disclosures Texas homeowners must make include:

  • The presence of lead paint, a disclosure which federal law requires
  • Damaged, malfunctioning or missing appliances
  • Any repairs the homeowner made to the house
  • Renovations or additions previous owners made without permits
  • Any pending lawsuits involving the property
  • Zoning issues, easements and boundary disagreements
  • Financial difficulties the homeowners association may be experiencing
  • Hazards on the property
  • Water damage
  • The risk and history of flooding on the property

Your home inspector may not discover some of the defects the owner knows about, so it is possible that you end up purchasing a home with material defects that the seller should have disclosed. This can cost you a significant amount of money, especially if you are dealing with foundational issues, major system defects or hazard remediation. In such cases, you may find reassurance by speaking with a real estate attorney who can offer guidance for pursuing your legal options.

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