Are there specific protections a real estate lawyer can build into a house sale to protect against hidden problems?
We checked in with attorney Fran Pennarola of Chipman Mazzucco to hear what he had to say:
"Hidden problems come in at least two varieties: those a seller knows about and conceals and those about which he is clueless. The typical real estate transaction contemplates a seller’s liability ending at the closing. In Connecticut for example, the state requires sellers and buyers to complete a residential property disclosure form, which discusses the various systems like the roof, basement, leaks, etc. A buyer’s lawyer may be able to negotiate additional representations about the condition of the well and septic in the contract itself, and other potential problem areas.
"If after the closing, problems develop and a buyer can prove an actual or negligent misrepresentation, there is a claim that can be brought. Even some innocent misrepresentations, where there has been buyer reliance, can provide liability. These disputes depend on the facts. I’ve been involved in a case where the septic system failed shortly after the closing and the seller was held liable because we could prove he knew it was failing (multiple septic companies had told him so). I’ve also been involved in a case where the well failed a week after the closing and we were able to prove that it was just fate, that there had been no misrepresentations."