Buying a home is a stressful experience. Between finding the right neighborhood to negotiating price, the real estate market’s hectic pressure can cause home buyers to overlook other important items, like defects.
Sometimes, sellers may seek to hide these defects from buyers, hoping to impose the inevitable repairs on the new owners. Thankfully, Ohio law helps protect residents from these bad faith transactions, enabling victims of fraud to take legal action.
Common construction defects to look for
Most costly construction defects are impossible to hide, but some are easier to conceal than others. Bad faith sellers more often attempt to hide these defects:
- Rusted pipes
- Leaking Radon
- Bad or old roofing
- Outdated appliances, like the septic tank
- Faulty ventilation
- Cracking foundation
- Outdated electrical wiring
Minor damage like tears in a screen door or scratches on a kitchen counter are not defects. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (IACHI) considers defects as anything that:
- Adversely impacts property value
- Presents an unreasonable risk
- Impacts a system or component
Liability for undisclosed defects
When buyers discover undisclosed defects on their property, they may take legal action against the liable parties. Timing is crucial with these real estate transactions, as money transferred from escrow to the seller is very difficult to recoup. Additionally, Ohio law supports a “caveat emptor” or “let the buyer beware” approach to real estate.
Homeowners looking to sell must fill out Ohio’s residential property disclosure form. Should a seller submit fraudulent or misleading information on this form, buyers may hold them liable. However, should a buyer overlook an otherwise reasonably observable and unobstructed defect, the law protects the seller.
In rare cases, an inspector’s error might render them liable, but only for the cost of the inspection.
A legal solution to a breach of contract
Ohio law considers a failure to disclose defects a breach of contract, affording buyers a legal right to recoup damages. The best way to ensure justice under the law is by pursuing a lawsuit alongside a local attorney familiar with Ohio’s real estate laws.