After you purchase a home, you may have buyer’s remorse. It is a large financial commitment, and it is perfectly natural to have jitters. However, while it is not uncommon for minor issues to crop up, you may find that you need to conduct major repairs. This gets a little tricky, and generally, you are out of luck, but there are remedies you can pursue in certain circumstances.
We discuss these situations in case you find yourself in a money pit.
Property Condition Disclosure Act
New York State’s Property Disclosure Act requires sellers to provide buyers with a disclosure statement. Should the seller omit defects he/she knew about, you can make a case that the seller owes you damages. Keep in mind, the key phrase is that the seller had to know about the issue, and you need to prove it.
Sellers typically provide a $500 credit to waive the disclosure statement requirement. If so, you are out of luck on this front.
The seller is liable to you in cases where you can prove fraud. You need to show that the seller knowingly made false statements (written or oral, but the latter is hard to prove), or omitted material facts. Once you demonstrate this, you need to show that you justifiably relied on the seller’s statement or omission, and this caused you harm.
Breach of contract
You can recover damages if the seller is in breach of contract. To do so, you need to show that the seller gave you a warranty regarding certain issues concerning the condition of the property. However, these typically expire at closing under the Doctrine of Merger. You need to specify that the provisions stay in place beyond closing and the delivery of the deed.
Additionally, the standard contract contains an “as is” clause, which makes a breach of contract challenging to enforce since you have agreed to buy the property in the current condition.
Going after the inspector
There are conditions where you can sue your inspector for negligence. You can do this if he/she failed to uncover a problem within the scope of the inspection, and failed to report it to you.
How to proceed
The first step is to check the disclosure statement. Next, review your purchase contract. If there is “as is” language, this makes your case weaker. Neighbors are a great source, and they can tell you if this is a long-standing problem. Then, go over your inspection contract and report. This will tell you if the issue should have been uncovered. If you are unsure, ask contractors. You need to bring them in to assess the issue and provide you with estimates, so it is easy enough to pose the question. They do not have a vested interest in the outcome, so he/she is likely to give you an honest answer.
Once you have the information, follow-up with a letter in order to create a paper trail. Define the issue, why you think the seller or inspector is responsible, and provide a cost estimate. If this does not give you a satisfactory outcome, you may need to consult a lawyer.