If you’re in the process of buying a new home, you may be curious about what the seller has to disclose about their property. Each state has its own disclosure laws and guidelines. In today’s blog, we’re taking a look at the seller disclosure requirements in Georgia.
What is a Seller Disclosure?
A seller disclosure is a legally-binding requirement designed to enforce transparency and safety in real estate dealings. Also referred to as property disclosure statements or transfer disclosures, a seller disclosure is a list of any known issues that a seller must share with the buyer before transferring the property.
What Are the Required Seller Disclosures in Georgia?
The requirements and guidelines on the seller disclosure forms can vary from state to state. In Georgia, sellers are not required to fill out a disclosure form. Georgia is a “caveat emptor” (buyer beware) state, meaning that buyers are charged with performing their own due diligence in real estate transactions. However, Georgia sellers are required by law to inform potential buyers about any latent or known material defects that would not necessarily be found during a reasonable inspection of the house.
Material Defects. A material defect is anything that poses a safety risk or that can have a significant, adverse impact on the value of the property. These defects would cause a potential buyer to pay less for the property or walk away from the purchase altogether. Examples of material defects that would require disclosure include faulty: foundation, frame, roof, windows and doors, electrical, plumbing, HVAC system, or major appliances.
Answering Questions Honestly. In addition to disclosing material defects, Georgia sellers must also honestly answer any questions that potential buyers ask about the house. These questions could be what repairs the seller has made to the house or how their dealings with the neighbors have been. A potential buyer could also ask if anyone has died in the house and the circumstances. A seller must answer these questions honestly.
Under Georgia Law, a seller does not need to disclose obvious defects, that a previous resident had a non-transmittable disease, or that a violent death occurred on the property. (Note: the seller does not have to disclose that a murder or suicide happened at the house, but if the buyer asks a specific and direct question about it, the seller must answer honestly). A seller does not have to answer questions if the information is protected under the Federal Fair Housing Act.
Seller Disclosure Statements
While Georgia law does not require a seller to fill out a formal disclosure form, it’s still a good idea to complete a disclosure statement. A seller should make sure that their buyer is fully informed about the condition of the house. A disclosure statement can help prevent a disgruntled buyer from filing a time-consuming and expensive lawsuit in the future.
If a seller deliberately omits facts about the house or attempts to conceal relevant information, they could face a lawsuit for fraud, misrepresentation, or breach of contract. They may have to compensate the buyer for any property damage because of the defect, the cost to repair the defect, or the lost value of the house. The buyer could also ask the court to rescind the sale contract altogether.
What Are the Federal Disclosure Requirements?
There are additional disclosure requirements under federal law. If the house was built before 1978, the seller must disclose any known lead-based paint hazards. Additionally, the seller would have to provide the buyer with an inspection report on the lead-based paint and an EPA-approved informational pamphlet. Under law, the seller must give the buyer the opportunity to conduct their own lead-based paint assessment and include language about the paint hazards in the sale contract. Sellers who fail to comply with the federal disclosure requirement can face a lawsuit, damages, and other penalties.
Have Additional Questions? Contact Brian M. Douglas & Associates
No one wants to discover problems after they’ve completed the purchase of a home. If you think you may have legal claims against the seller, please reach out to Brian M. Douglas & Associates’ team of experienced real estate attorneys. We can review your sales contract and home inspection report and advise you on the best course of action. To schedule a consultation, you can call (770) 933-9009 or use our online contact page. We’re always happy to help.