This is an important point to observe on correct disclosures. Sometimes a home has problems that a seller is not aware of and are disclosed by a professional inspector.
Many have heard the old saying “buyer beware” (translation of the latin caveat emptor), meaning that it is the responsibility of a home buyer to inspect and discover defects in the purchase of a home. This was the law in South Carolina until after World War II and has been in a constant state of change ever since.
Today, a seller of a home in South Carolina must disclose defects or other conditions of the home to the buyer of which he/she has knowledge, especially if the defects are hidden and are not discoverable upon a reasonable inspection of the property. Failure to do so on the seller’s part may amount to fraud and can expose the seller to substantial damages in court.
Such defects are usually disclosed through a state-approved Residential Property Condition Disclosure Statement, which is required to be completed by every seller prior to execution of a contract of sale (unless the requirement is waived by the parties or the seller is exempt for some reason as with REO properties.) The statement allows the seller to either represent that there are known defects, that there are not any known defects, or that the seller is making “no representation.” Purchasers should, however, keep in mind that this form is not a warranty by the seller and does not relieve the purchaser from conducting his/her own due diligence inspection.
According to South Carolina Code Section 27-50-50, failure to provide the disclosure does not void the agreement, create a defect in title or present a “valid reason to delay or otherwise interfere with the closing…by a party including the real estate attorney or lender.” Therefore, it is up to the purchaser or their agent to make sure the statement is provided. And sellers should keep in mind that an owner who knowingly fails to disclose a defect in the disclosure or makes a false, incomplete or misleading statement is liable to the purchaser for actual damages and court costs. The court may also ask the seller to pay the purchaser’s attorney fees.
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