If you have discovered a defect in a house you recently purchased, you may be tempted to sue the seller for your damages. Before instigating such a lawsuit, scrutinize these three issues that may weaken your case against the seller:
It Is a New Defect
Did your sewer pipes back up and flood your house a couple of weeks after buying the property? You will have to prove that the damage existed before you bought the house. This is necessary because you can only be compensated for pre-existing defects, and not those that have cropped up after you bought the house.
Investigating the cause of the problem is likely to tell whether it is a recent occurrence or not. For example, in the case of sewer backup, the common causes are clogging, tree roots, and collapsed sewer lines. Clogging is likely to be a recent problem while damage from tree lines is likely to be a pre-existing issue.
It's an Obvious Problem
Although the seller and their agent are obligated to open up on all existing defects, you can't hold them liable for not disclosing obvious defects that everybody could see. You can only hold them responsible for hidden defects that they knew about. For example, a crack line in one of the corners should be visible to everyone, including you, so you can't buy a property with such a blatant sign of damage and later hold the seller liable for it. This is based on the legal doctrine of "buyer beware" that govern house sales.
The Seller Did Not Know About It
It's not reasonable to expect a property seller to reveal defects that they don't know about, and the law agrees with this assessment. Therefore, if the seller claims that they didn't know about the defect, you must prove otherwise. This is especially true with hidden defects that a layperson cannot be expected to know about.
However, just because you cannot hold the seller liable for your damages doesn't mean that you are doomed. There may be other parties who could be liable for the loss. For example, you may not hold the buyer liable for problems they did not and could not know about, but you may be able to claim your damages from your home inspector. This may be possible if the defect is one which a reasonable competent home inspector ought to have uncovered during their work. Therefore, talk to a real estate attorney like Zane Law before fixing the defect with your hard-earned money.