Buying a home is a big decision. Buyers in Blue Bell and other Philadelphia suburbs often spend more than $400,000 on a home purchase. To protect them from buying a home with serious defects, Pennsylvania requires sellers to disclose problems with the condition of their property.

What to know about required real estate disclosures

With the Pennsylvania Real Estate Seller Disclosure law, sellers must list any material defects they know the property has on a disclosure form. This includes problems a contractor may have informed them about. Material defects in the following areas can significantly impact the value of a property:

  • The roof
  • The plumbing system
  • The property’s structural integrity
  • The property’s foundation
  • The electrical system
  • The heating and air conditioning system
  • Any property soil or drainage issues
  • Any hazardous substances that are on the property
  • If the property is part of a homeowners’ or condominium association

The law requires real estate agents to inform sellers that they must fill out a property disclosure statement.

Reviewing a disclosure form and getting a home inspection

Potential buyers review the seller’s disclosure statement to help decide if they will put in an offer of a property, and for how much. Agents must allow inform buyers about any material defects of a property that they are aware of.

However, property buyers also should have a home inspection completed, which can:

  • Reveal other issues not noted in the seller disclosure form
  • Help determine how serious any material defect are, so buyers know how much it might cost to fix them

Sellers also must inform buyers of any new significant problems they become aware of between the signing of the property’s purchase agreement and the property closing. However, sellers and real estate agents can’t be held liable for property problems they are unaware of.

When sellers are liable for property defects

Sellers are liable for property defects:

  • For two years after a property’s sale
  • If they were aware of defects but didn’t disclose them

Buyers can sue if they discover defects that they feel buyers knew about. They should consult a real estate attorney about what type of damages they may be eligible for and what evidence they will need to prove their claim. Sellers who receive notification that they are facing a lawsuit because of failing to disclose a property’s defects also should consult a real estate attorney about how to handle this claim.