Seller’s obligation to disclose: flooded house info

Legal Matters with Olivia Byers

Legal Matters with Olivia Byers

As a real estate attorney, I’ve seen my share of the bizarre. Just recently, I received this exact email from a fellow attorney:
“Does anyone know off the top of their head – Are sellers required by law to disclose to buyers that the prior owners were bludgeoned to death inside the home? I just finished an abstract on this property and googled the address and stumbled across this article…”
What followed was an article describing a gruesome murder that had occurred in a home that is currently under contract. Turns out in Louisiana, sellers are not required to disclose that this murder, or any death for that matter, occurred in their home. Sellers are also not required to state if they believe their house is haunted – an issue that, not surprisingly, comes up occasionally in New Orleans.
So what DOES a seller have to disclose and what does that mean for your flooded house? Seller Disclosure is governed by Revised Statute 9:3198 which requires the following:
1. The seller must complete a property disclosure document in a form prescribed by the Louisiana Real Estate Commission.
2. The seller must detail any material facts they are aware of that negatively affect the property.
This is a broad statement, and could cover a wide variety of defects in a home, ranging from the condition of the roof to the condition of the gas tank.
Question 4 on the Standard Louisiana Property Disclosure form asks the following: “Has any flooding, water intrusion, accumulation, or drainage problem been experienced with respect to the land? If yes, indicate the nature and frequency of the defect…”
Based on this, sellers ARE required to disclose that the house they are selling has flooded. Any attempt to disguise this matter is fraud in Louisiana.
In addition to normal defects the following defects must be disclosed if the seller has knowledge of any of the following:
• Whether the buyer is obligated to be a member of a homeowners’ association as a homeowner in the community in which the buyer is purchasing property.
• Whether an illegal laboratory for the production or manufacturing of methamphetamine was in operation on the purchasing property.
• Whether a cavity created within a salt stock by dissolution with water lies underneath the property.
• Whether the purchasing property is within two thousand 640 feet of a solution mining injection well.
• Whether the property has been zoned commercial or industrial.
Honesty is always the best policy, and that is especially true here. Concealing defects is fraud and carries some pretty harsh penalties.

Olivia Keen Byers, Attorney for Title Stream, 225.590.3323; www.titlestream.com. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at obyers@titlestream.com.

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