Fraudulent Concealment Lawyers
Purchasing a home, building, or any piece of real estate is usually a significant financial commitment. As with any large purchase, you want to ensure you are buying property free of any defects, damages, or other issues that might impact the overall value of your new property.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of learning about major defects after you’ve purchased a home, you may have some legal options. If you can prove the seller of the house or property completely failed to disclose and/or intentionally mislead you about the severity of the damage during the sales process, you may be able to sue them for fraudulent concealment.
What is Fraudulent Concealment?
Fraudulent concealment cases involve the seller of a property concealing problems or issues with the property from the buyer – especially problems that would lower the value of the property itself or require significant financial investment to repair the damage. Types of fraudulent representations made to buyers before they purchase a property generally include failing to disclose known defects, such as:
- Termite damage
- Roof leaks, damages, and/or repairs
- Flooding or water damage
- Cracks or defects in the foundation
- Previous fires
- Septic or sewer system problems
- Lead paint
For example, let’s say a home has foundation issues that are causing structural issues to the house – such as cracks in the walls – and the owner decides to sell the house. Instead of addressing the foundation issues, the owner simply repairs the superficial damage to the walls and covers it all up with a fresh coat of paint. The owner then sells the house without disclosing the foundation issues to the buyer. When the new buyer of the home discovers the foundation problems, they can claim the seller made a fraudulent representation about the structural integrity of the home in the course of selling it.
If the failure to disclose damages to the property significantly affected the purchase price or caused the new owner to incur substantial repair costs, the new owners may have legal options, including suing the seller for fraudulent concealment.
Property Disclosure Statements in Georgia
People frequently lie about the condition of their property when selling it in the hopes of getting a higher selling price than the property is actually worth. In Georgia, it is often easy to prove the seller lied because sellers must fill out and sign a property disclosure statement.
This disclosure statement is a standardized form with multiple questions about the history of the property. The disclosure requires the seller to answer “yes” or “no” questions and provide detailed explanations regarding the property’s current condition. Examples of some of the questions include:
- Is any portion of the heating and cooling system in need of repair or replacement?
- Are there any roof leaks or other problems with the roof, roof flashing, gutters, or downspouts?
- Has there ever been any flooding?
- Has there ever been any damage from a frozen water line, spigot, or fixture?
If the seller checked “no” next to any of the dozens of questions included on the form when they knew they should have checked “yes,” then they committed fraud.
Usually, once a real estate transaction is complete (or upon the “closing”), the property becomes the sole responsibility of the new owner. Property disclosure statements, however, typically survive closing. This means that even after the sale transaction is completed on the property, the buyer can still hold the seller legally responsible for damages that were fraudulently concealed during the course of the sale.
For example, if the seller checked “no” next to the question about roof leaks and the buyer learns three months after closing there is, in fact, a roof leak that existed prior to the close of the sale – and the seller clearly knew about this leak – the buyer has legal rights to recover damages for the fraud.
“Buyers Beware” in Georgia
While sellers may be required to fill out the property disclosure statement, buyers are also responsible for conducting a thorough inspection of the property before purchasing it. In fact, Georgia is considered a “buyer beware state,” which means the buyer is responsible for performing the necessary due diligence before purchasing a property to ensure it is not defective.
According to Georgia law, buyers cannot win a legal claim against the seller of a property for fraudulent concealment if the defect or damage could have been discovered by the buyer through a careful inspection. Several court rulings in Georgia have upheld the idea that if the damage or defect should have been a part of an inspector’s report, then the responsibility falls on the buyer and not the seller. That’s why it is incredibly important to have a trustworthy and thorough inspection completed for any real estate purchase.
Who Can Be Legally Responsible for Fraudulent Concealment?
If you do find yourself in a situation where the real estate you purchased has major defects or damages that were not disclosed to you during the course of the sale, there are several different parties that may be legally liable:
- The seller – if the seller knowingly lied on the property disclosure statement or obviously knew of an issue but did not disclose it.
- The seller’s agent – the agent must also legally disclose any known defects when asked about the condition of the home or property.
- The inspector – a home inspector is trained on all of the nuances involved in the construction of a building or home. As an expert in the subject matter, they should provide you with a very detailed and comprehensive examination of the property. Depending on the defect or damage, a home inspector may be liable for missing it in their inspection.
Speaking to an experienced Georgia real estate attorney can help you determine what your options are regarding fraudulent concealment and who is potentially legally liable.
Fraudulent Concealment Real Estate Lawyers in Georgia
Buying a home or other real estate is often one of the largest purchases made by an individual, and it can be devastating to learn that investment has major issues. If you recently purchased property in Georgia only to find significant defects and damage after closing, contact the experienced real estate lawyers at the Law Offices of Mark Weinstein, PC. We can analyze your situation and provide you guidance on what your legal options are moving forward.