Selling the family home can be difficult, but it may also be a necessary step for your family’s future. It can also be difficult to figure out what home sellers are required to tell potential homebuyers about the home, including the foundation of the home and the condition that it is in at the time of selling.
The law in Pennsylvania for Real Estate Disclosure is relatively easy to manage, but we’re here to help make the entire process just a little bit easier! We’ve explained the law and provided a list of items that the seller must disclose to any potential homebuyer before they sign the closing paperwork.
Continue reading to learn everything that a home seller may need to know about the Pennsylvania Real Estate Seller Disclosure Law.
What Is the Pennsylvania Real Estate Seller Disclosure Law?
Home sellers in Pennsylvania must disclose “known material defects” about the property before the sale’s finalized. The disclosure law is in place to help protect the buyer while encouraging the seller to be more transparent. It is also going to protect the seller from any potential backlash that might follow as a result of a defect.
Material defects must be disclosed when they pose a serious negative impact on the property’s value or is may risk the safety of the property’s inhabitants. The seller may not have to disclose these problems if they choose to fix them before selling the home.
Seller disclosure law is a part of the PA Real Estate Seller Disclosure Act of 1996. As a result of this law, the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors created a form known as the Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement for its members to use.
This seller disclosure form must be filled out before the purchase agreement can be signed. Both buyer and seller must sign this form acknowledging that these issues were brought to the buyer’s attention before they purchased the home.
Sellers must deliver property disclosure forms to the buyer before they purchase the home. The delivery may be made in person, via first-class mail, via certified mail with a return receipt request, or via facsimile transmission to the buyer or the buyer’s agent. This includes every person who intends to be listed as co-tenants of the home.
What Has to Be Disclosed?
Pennsylvania’s Real Estate Disclosure Act requires that the seller’s expertise level in any relevant field i.e., plumbing, roofing, foundation, etc. be disclosed in the home’s disclosure documents. This will determine whether or not the seller knew that there was a problem that they failed to disclose.
Another requirement for the disclosure is the period of time that has passed since the seller last resided within the home.
The Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement includes every required disclosure and then has an area for additional issues that may not fit into the former categories, including:
- Home structure (roof, basement, walls, foundation)
- Treatment for termites
- Water, rot, and sewage issues
- Remodels and renovations
- Plumbing, electricity, HVAC (and their condition)
- Appliances included in the sale (and their condition)
- Hazardous/ environmental contaminants within the home
- Title, insurance, or legal troubles
- Deed restrictions
- Additional material defects not listed previously
Pennsylvania law does not require disclosure of deaths (natural or otherwise) that occur within the home. Sellers do not have to disclose noisy or nosey neighbors or the status of the neighborhood.
What Does This Mean for Sellers?
Sellers who are unaware of a potential problem rely completely on the notion that they were unable to notice a potential issue with the home. When sellers disclose their expertise in relevant areas, they are admitting to a certain level of fault if something fails to be mentioned before the home is sold to the new owners.
For example, a plumber who failed to disclose a burst water main would be held to a higher standard of accountability over a layperson who may not know the signs and, as a result, fail to notice the problem.
That being said, sellers are not expected to examine the entire premises to find these potential issues. There may be problems in the home that aren’t recognizable by an average person.
Your best bet at conquering the seller’s market is hiring a knowledgeable realtor to handle these things for you.
Recent Changes to the Real Estate Seller Disclosure Law
The 2015 amendment to the PA Real Estate Seller Disclosure Act of 1996 includes any potential problems relating to soil, drainage, boundaries, and sinkholes. It also required that the condition and location of any stormwater facilities (including whether or not they would become responsible for maintenance) be added to the list of material defects.
What Legal Actions Can Come Against a Seller Once the Sale Is Final?
Sellers (who unknowingly withheld pertinent information) are not responsible for issues that develop after the closing. However, if a seller fails to disclose a material defect, they can be held responsible for the cost of repairs along with other damages that affect the buyer. According to PA C.S. § 7311, punitive damages are not included in this.
How Does the Disclosure Law Protect the Seller?
Disclosing this information to the potential buyer protects the seller from any negative actions coming back on them. This seller disclosure law guarantees that the seller did their part in warning the buyer of any issues that might pose a threat to the safety of those residing in the home.
Now that you have a better understanding of the Pennsylvania Real Estate Seller Disclosure Law, you’ll be able to make the best decisions regarding the sale of your home. Contact Tri-County Team for help with laws regarding the sale of a home in the Bucks County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia areas. We look forward to working with home sellers during this challenging time.