The New York Property Disclosure Act is involved whenever properties of one to four families are sold. Keep in mind that it’s still buyer beware – caveat emptor. The property condition disclosure form does not offer any sort of warranty or guarantee. As an experienced Rochester Real Estate Lawyer, I usually tell my clients who are sellers, “If you’re not going to provide that form for a one- to four- family dwelling, you have to give the buyer, a $500 credit.” I normally recommend that sellers just give the buyer that credit and not provide the property disclosure form because it might offer a buyer more ammunition for a lawsuit. The property disclosure form is not a warranty or a substitute for inspections. It covers a number of environmental things, such as whether or not the property lies within a floodplain or wetlands, if there have ever been landfills, storage tanks, asbestos in the structure, or lead plumbing. Has a radon test been done? Have any sort of oil products been used on the property? Is there any rot or water damage to the structure? Is there smoke damage” What about termite, insect, rodent or pest infestation or damage? What kind of covering does the roof have? Are there any material defects in the roof? How old is the roof? Any defects in structural systems such as footings, beams, gutters, columns or partitions? What is the water source? Has water quality or flow rate been tested? What’s the type of sewage system? Who’s the electric service provider? There’s a whole list of questions about known defects in plumbing, carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors, fire sprinkler systems, certain pumps, foundations, floors, and so on covering all parts of the structure.
This property disclosure form has probably resulted in hundreds of cases but, in order for a buyer to recover against a seller for defective property, they pretty much have to have deliberately concealed it. Those cases pretty much verify that you can’t rely on the property disclosure form alone. If there were a way to determine anything in here, it’s that your lawsuit against the seller will probably be dismissed– even though the seller may have misrepresented something on the property disclosure form. It’s primarily up to you to determine whether there are any defects in a property and, unless they’re actually concealed, you cannot sue for fraud or misrepresentation. You have to do your due diligence and conduct a complete inspection.
Other states require disclosure regarding whether or not the property has ever been used as a meth lab and the actual cost to clean up after a meth lab can be tens of thousands of dollars. There is a database that keeps track of properties that have been identified as meth labs, and they’re scattered throughout western New York, Amherst, Angola, and Elma. Throughout the suburbs as well as the city, those properties have been identified as clandestine meth labs.
Do you have further questions on the New York property condition disclosure act? Contact dedicated Rochester Real Estate Lawyer Robert Friedman for guidance.