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Snakes In the House! Why Realtors® and Sellers Should Remember Their Duty to Disclose

Disclosure by Peter N. Brewer, Esq.

“I do not want them in the house, I do not want them on my blouse, I would not like them in my car, I would not like them near or far, I do not want them here, nor there, I do not want them anywhere!”  With great apologies to Dr. Seuss.

Yesterday, a Maryland couple filed a $2 million lawsuit against their REALTOR® after they found a severe snake infestation in their recently-purchased home.

Sellers in California are required to disclose all facts that would be material to the transaction.  A snake infestation would be material to most, if not all buyers.  In this case, if there was an inspection report disclosing the defect that the seller or the listing agent had possession of, then the buyers may have a solid claim for punitive damages because of active concealment.

California law requires you to fill out and provide the Transfer Disclosure Statement. In addition to the TDS, many buyers would like the Seller’s Supplemental Checklist, however it is optional. I recommend that sellers use the supplemental disclosure to help them remember what repairs and property conditions that they should disclose to the buyer. After so many years of owning a home, it’s easy to forget all the little repairs you have made. Remember, you must disclose anything that would be material to the buyers.

For example, if the window leaked this past winter and you repaired it in the summer but it hasn’t rained yet, you don’t know if it still leaks. Sellers often forget to disclose things they “fixed” which can lead to problems later.

That’s what appeared to have happened to these unfortunate buyers in Maryland, that they purchased their home when snakes were dormant (presumably during cold weather) but “as the weather grew warmer, the family discovered the snake infestations”.

Here in the Bay Area, we haven’t had much rain since there has been a drought and so a property that looks dry as a bone in the summer months could have a serious drainage or flooding issue when the rains resume.  If the sellers are aware of that possibility, they must disclose it.

We have written about the seller’s duty to disclose numerous times:

“Past Litigation is a Material Fact that Sellers are Obligated to Disclose”

Do I have to Tell Them Everything? By Simon Offord, Esq.

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