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Florida's real estate disclosure rules

As is the case in other parts of the country, our state abandoned the traditional principle, "let the buyer beware" when buying and selling single-family homes. Instead, a seller in West Palm Beach has a general obligation to disclose certain property defects to a buyer.

Specifically, while a seller does not need to tell a buyer about something they already know, sellers must disclose a defects that are not open and obvious to a buyer. But, the defect also has to have some bearing on the property's overall value. Finally, the seller must know about the defect.

For instance, things, like a broken toilet or a missing lightbulb, would probably not require a disclosure. Likewise, unknown structural problems would probably not require a disclosure. Something like a pipe leak or electrical problems the seller has attended to recently, however, would likely require a disclosure.

While there are forms available for sellers to use to make their disclosures, there is no one form a seller must use under state law. It is important to remember, though, that because the duty is on the seller to disclose, it is ordinarily not acceptable for the seller's real estate agent to do it on the seller's behalf.

This post covers just one of Florida's real estate disclosure laws. There are others sellers and buyers need to know. In particular, it is important for sellers to observe all disclosure laws in this state, as the failure to do so could lead to costly real estate disputes down the road. On the other hand, a buyer who feels that the seller did not follow disclosure laws can and should consider legal action, if the buyer wound up with a lemon of a property as a result.

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