Hidden Defects in a Georgia Home Purchase

Assume you and your family are looking for a new place to live. When you go inside an apparently lovely open home, you notice a huge crack in the living room wall. As you continue to move around, you see that the kitchen floor slopes drastically uphill and downwards, indicating that there has been water damage underneath. Finally, you ascend to the master bedroom, turn on the light, and stay in the dark. You quickly discover that the power on the second story is out.

All of these flaws are readily apparent to the ordinary purchaser. “Patent faults” are issues that are evident to the naked eye. As a result, they aren’t nearly as frightening as they seem. The vendor will be unable to avoid addressing them due to their evident character. Indeed, the seller may have already set a low asking price to account for the knowledge that the buyer will need to make extensive repairs.

The so-called “latent flaws” are even more problematic for consumers. Property faults that are not evident to the naked eye are known as latent defects. Latent faults, unlike patent defects, are difficult to detect without a background in building, architecture, or engineering. Consider asbestos-containing ceiling tiles, carbon monoxide pouring into the atmosphere, or corroded basement pipes on the verge of breaking.

Disclosure Requirements for Georgia Home Sellers

Sellers are required by law in several states to disclose certain major problems in the property prior to closing. Every jurisdiction is unique. A few people believe in the caveat emptor principle, which states that purchasers are mostly responsible for uncovering faults with a property before purchasing it.

However, the majority of states take a more regulated approach, requiring sellers to provide purchasers with a formal written report detailing any known material problems and previous repairs done on the property.

Sellers are generally forbidden by law from lying to purchasers about the condition of a house, regardless of the state. In other words, if the seller affirmatively states that the septic tank was recently updated and that the piping is in excellent shape, but the septic tank and plumbing have not been inspected in a decade, this might be considered fraud. In such a case, customers may be able to sue their vendor if they subsequently discover the deception.

Inspections of Homes to Find Flaws

The majority of merchants aren’t trying to deceive you (even if they do want to make their property look as nice as possible). The majority of the time, sellers are completely unaware of any hidden flaws in their house.

In other words, people may be unaware of some of these issues, especially if they do not utilize specific areas of the home (for example, a leak in the pool that they never use, or mildew in the garage that they seldom use since they do not own a vehicle).

Whether the seller freely reveals a fault, attempts to disguise the problem, or is completely uninformed of the defect, you, as the buyer, must be aware of it before closing the contract.

As a result, it is typical for purchasers to conduct a thorough house inspection during the escrow period. A home inspector (usually a building, architectural, or engineering specialist) will assess the property and provide a written report to the buyer. Any patent or latent faults will be discussed in the report. For concerns like mildew, an apparently unsafe huge tree near the property, or an unusual building such as a boat dock, the inspector may consider bringing in professional inspectors.

If you discover faults that you were previously ignorant of, you may be able to back out of the transaction (which is permitted under the language of most purchase contracts). It might also be a chance to work out a deal with the seller, in which the seller agrees to undertake or pay for part of the cleanup work before the property is transferred to you.

Latent faults, unlike patent defects, are difficult to detect without a background in building, architecture, or engineering.

When buying a house, look for hidden flaws.

While hiring a home inspector may cost you money now, it will help you prevent unpleasant surprises once you buy the house.

Buyers should be wary of latent problems since they are difficult to detect without professional skills in building, design, or engineering. As a result, you should be cautious and insist on enough time to do a comprehensive house inspection.

Suing for Latent Defects in a Home Purchase in Georgia

What happens if you purchase a house only to discover hidden flaws that the seller forgot to disclose?

You do have alternatives, even if it is an uphill struggle. While you won’t be able to seek redress from everyone involved, you will be able to seek redress from the following parties:

  • Seller:  As previously stated, the seller of a house in Georgia is obligated to give disclosures. The seller is required to offer a list of faults on the property that they are aware of but may not be evident. While a seller may subsequently claim ignorance, patching on drywall discovered after a purchase when a leak has occurred is an evident indicator that the seller was aware of the problem.
  • Seller’s Agent:  Like the seller, the agent must report any flaws in the house when requested, and although their responsibilities are restricted, they may be held liable in certain cases.
  • Home Inspector:  While inspections are not required in Georgia when buying a property, a wise buyer will always have one done. The inspector is a skilled professional who is familiar with house building and so has a better chance of detecting these problems. Depending on the nature of the problem, a home inspector may be held accountable for failing to notice it during their examination of the property.

So now you have a latent flaw, and you’re responsible for the parties that haven’t satisfied their obligations.

Do you have a case and need to call a lawyer?

There are several requirements that must be satisfied before you may advance:

  • Was the flaw there when you acquired the house?
  • If the loss arises solely due to your ownership, general wear and tear on the residence is not actionable. If the problem was pre-existing, however, you should be OK to continue.
  • Is it a non-obvious flaw that was not reported but was known to a previous party?
  • In the case above, plumbing may not always be evident, but if you subsequently discover efforts were made to correct and hide the problem, and you relied on those parties’ non-disclosure, this criterion will have been satisfied.
  • Is there a repair cost or a decline in the value of the house as a consequence of the defect?

In a lawsuit, these issues will be the basis of your claim and should consult with an experienced Georgia real estate attorney.

Depending on the circumstances, you may use a variety of legal theories to prosecute the culpable parties. We urge that you consult with an experienced attorney before filing your lawsuit to verify that you are pursuing the right theory. Failure to disclose, carelessness, fraud, breach of contract, breach of warranty, and negligent misrepresentation are just a few of the allegations.

Updated: 2022-11-16