Prior Property Damage
Purchasing real estate involves prior inspection of the property. Buyers often hire professionals to help them detect damage or other material defects. However, even the professional cannot identify every damage, especially those that are not readily observable. Sellers often conceal significant damage and other flaws by applying quick fixes. Typically, these reparations are cosmetic and short-term solutions made for inspection.
In Florida, sellers aware of material defects on the property must disclose them by providing the buyers with a Property Disclosure Form. The law requires sellers to fill out and present the disclosure form after signing the purchase contract. The document addresses various defects with the property, and the seller must go through each of them, marking all known facts that affect the value of the real estate (not readily observable to the buyer). It is worth mentioning that the form does not cover every possible defect with the property. The buyer should further inquire by asking the seller if there are any defects they are aware of at the time of the purchase. Also, disclosures the seller makes while filling out the form are not a guarantee or warranty. The disclosure is not a substitute for a professional inspection of the property, personal judgment, or common sense. The disclosure form emphasizes that the information seller provides results from the actual knowledge of the property condition, which is why the purchaser should conduct an independent professional inspection (to detect defects the seller may not know about).
However, purchasing a property with material defects (prior property damage) may give the buyer the right to file a claim against the seller seeking financial compensation. The other option is mediation to settle the dispute.