In California, sellers of real property have a very strong duty to disclose all material facts to the buyer that materially affect value or the desirability of the property; but only those material facts that are known or accessible only to the seller, and only if the seller knows that such facts are not known to the buyer and cannot be discovered after reasonable diligence by the buyer.
Implicit in the seller’s duty of disclosure, is the buyer’s duty to conduct their own investigation regarding the property. Since the seller is only responsible for those material facts that cannot be discovered by the buyer after reasonable diligence, the buyer cannot fail to conduct inspections of the property, and then hold the seller legally responsible for defects to the property that the seller did not disclose but would have been discovered by the buyer had they completed the inspections prior to the sale.
In addition to the seller and buyer having duties regarding investigations and inspections, the real estate brokers and agents also have duties. The real estate brokers and agents representing the seller and buyer have a duty to inspect the property, and to disclose to the buyer any defects they discover that materially affect the marketability and desirability of the property.
Cases involving failure to disclose defects in a real estate sales transaction are very common. In California, because there are so many moving parts, these cases can be complicated. An analysis should be completed to determine, among other things, whether or not the defect is a material defect, whether or not it is a defect that the seller had a duty to disclose and failed to disclose, whether or not the defect would have been discovered after a reasonable inspection of the property by the buyer, or whether the defects were discoverable by the real estate brokers.
If you have purchased a property and have discovered defects that you believe may be the result of a violation of one of the other parties’ duty to disclose; or if you are a seller where such a claim has been asserted against you; or if you are a real estate broker or agent where such claims have been asserted against you, you should consult with an attorney right away. Because there are statutes of limitations and legal deadlines that need to be met, promptly dealing with the issue can be critical.
I regularly represent clients in the East Bay, California, in Oakland, California, and in Walnut Creek, California, in failure to disclose or non-disclosure cases. If you have questions, or need representation by a California real estate attorney involving a non-disclose case, please feel free to contact me to discuss your case or to arrange for a consultation. I can be reached at (510) 465-0025 or (925) 708-3306.