Purchasing a home can be a significant, and sometimes overwhelming, investment. Whether you buy a new home or an older property, there can be defects that spring up after you move in. Some home defects are apparent and relatively easy to fix. Others may not be so visible and can cause some major damage. In today’s blog, we’re discussing filing a lawsuit for latent defects.

What is a Latent Defect?

A latent defect is a problem with a property that is not typically visible to the naked eye. You may not have noticed the latent defect during the pre-purchase inspection. Latent defects can include a wide range of defaults or flaws, including corroded pipes or tanks, asbestos, carbon monoxide leaks, ceiling cracks, weak foundation, roof leaks, or defective plumbing and wiring.

Georgia’s Disclosure Laws

In Georgia, a seller must disclose all known defects – whether they are visible or not. This law is designed to put potential buyers on notice of any major problems. A buyer should be aware of what they’re getting into and any potential issues that they’ll have to address if they go forward with the purchase. 

Who is Responsible for Latent Defects?

But what happens if you discover a latent defect after you’ve already purchased a property? Who is responsible? Under Georgia law, you have a couple of options. 

  • Seller: Sellers are required to disclose any defects that they’re aware of in the home, whether or not that defect is obvious. If the buyer finds defects after the home sale, the seller may be held liable for those defects. The seller, however, may try to claim that they didn’t know about the latent defect and that the problem started after the sale.
  • Seller’s Agent: Under Georgia law, if a seller’s agent is asked about any defects in the home, they must disclose what they know. If the buyer finds a latent defect, the agent could be found responsible. 
  • Home Inspector: When you’re buying a home, you’re not required by law to hire someone to inspect the property. But it’s always a good idea. Home inspectors are typically well trained and certified, and have experience uncovering potential problems with the home’s construction. If there is a latent defect that the home inspector missed, they may be held liable for the problem. 
Claim Requirements

There are several different types of claims you can file for a latent defect: negligence, failure to disclose, breach of contract, breach of warranty, fraud, or misrepresentation. But before you file a lawsuit, you have to meet certain conditions concerning the latent defect.

For a case to be successful, you’ll need to prove that 1) the latent defect was there before you purchased the home, 2) the party was aware of the non-obvious defect but did not disclose it as required by law, and 3) that there were actual damages. In other words, because of this pre-existing defect that wasn’t properly disclosed, the buyer had to make repairs or the property suffered a loss in value. General wear and tear, or defects that have not caused any quantifiable problems, are typically not a good bases of a lawsuit. 

Have Questions About Latent Home Defects? Contact Brian M. Douglas & Associates

If you have recently purchased a home and discovered a latent defect, please reach out to our team of experienced real estate attorneys. We can walk you through your legal options and help you choose the best option for you and your loved ones. A home is a major investment of your time, energy, and money, and we want to help you protect that investment. To set up a consultation, you can call us at (770) 933-9009 or use our online contact form.