The rule of thumb for home repair is that you’ll probably spend 1% a year on fixing problems with your home. If you put that money aside in advance, you’ll be prepared to fix anything that comes your way. However, if you just bought your home and are finding problem after problem, you might want to know about seller responsibility after closing.
Here are four things you need to know when figuring out whether or not you’re liable for repairs.
1. Due Diligence, if it’s Not Too Late
If you haven’t already finished the sale, you might still have some recourse. If you don’t fully legally own the home yet, you can hold the seller responsible.
When buying anything that was previously owned, from a jacket on eBay to a home, you need to have everything checked out as best as possible. Get as many images as you can from every angle and get on your hands and knees to check everything out yourself. In the case of homeownership, having a professional inspector come by is the ideal option.
Repairs and renovations should be a part of your discussion when putting together your contract. Buying a home as-is isn’t usually a good option unless you’re getting a heck of a deal.
Even if you’ve finished this portion of the home buying process, it’s not too late. Your buyer isn’t completely off the hook for home repairs if there are serious issues that they didn’t disclose.
Selling a car that you know has no brakes leaves you liable when someone crashes that car. It’s a similar case when someone sells a home that they know has serious problems. First-time homebuyers should take care before signing anything.
2. Home Repair In Your Contract
It’s typical to keep some elements of home repair in the contract you sign when you buy a home. While there’s an understanding that your inspector would have discovered anything deeply problematic, there are still things they could have missed.
If a seller has neglected some repairs around their home, they might not have noticed what inspectors uncovered. If this is the case, they might agree to pay for or deduct those repairs from your contract. If that’s the case, you’ll be compensated upon your agreement.
However, if you fail to repair those issues, you could end up paying for them heavily later. You might want your seller to help you cover the problem but it’s on you if you waited too long.
Most homes are sold “as-is”, but if it’s explicitly laid out this way, you might have limited recourse. Home repairs that aren’t explicitly included in your contract are going to be hard to get paid for.
Include limited repairs in your contract if you’re really worried about them. Otherwise, your seller might want to repair them so that they can get you to sign an as-is contract. If that’s the case, get another inspection following the repairs to protect yourself.
3. They’re Liable For What They Knew
If your seller signs a contract with you knowing that there are problems with the house they’re selling, they’re going to be held responsible.
Roofing material isn’t designed to last forever and leaks happen. That’s a normal part of life. However, if the seller of your home knows that the roof leaks on the home they’re selling you, they need to either disclose it or repair it.
If you find out a season later, when spring causes all the snow to melt, you might feel like you don’t have any recourse. Your challenge as a buyer now becomes an investigation into whether or not they knew in advance. Short of looking for a receipt for a bucket they stored the rain in, you might be up the creek.
Sellers aren’t required to look for defects in any active sense. If there’s mold beneath a floorboard that they never lifted up, they’re not responsible for that. Knowledge about problems that are more materially apparent, like a leaking roof, is easier to prove.
Take photos as soon as you notice an issue so that you can show your agent, repair person, and even a lawyer later. If it ends up costing you thousands, it might be time to find some recourse.
4. You’re Responsible For What You knew
If you noticed a problem while you and the inspector walked around a house, you shouldn’t have kept it to yourself. If you really want the problem solved, you need to get that problem taken care of before you buy your home.
Inspections are important and in a lot of cases required before a house is sold. You should have done a walk around and discussed problems or potential issues with the seller.
Having a home inspector conduct their own independent inspection is not only a smart move, but are requested by most financing agencies. Unless you’re buying the home for cash, banks or financial institutions ask for an inspection before they hand over any financing.
A home inspection should give you a structural review of how the property looks and what needs to be repaired. A good inspection will also take into account the environment around the house to give an idea of what could cause damage to the foundation or the exterior.
Damage pointed out during that inspection then becomes the subject of discussion during the selling process. However, once the contract is signed, your options become limited.
Seller Responsibility After Closing is Limited
While it might not be the conclusion that you were looking for, sadly seller responsibility after closing is a narrow list of items. Unless you can find they misled you or made egregious errors when analyzing problems, you can’t do much. However, if you do find issues, you should take action.
If you want to ensure you find the perfect home inspector, check out our guide for details.