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Tampa Real Estate Lawyer > Blog > Real Estate > What Is A Latent Defect In Florida Real Estate?

What Is A Latent Defect In Florida Real Estate?


If you are looking to purchase real property in Florida, it is crucial to be aware of the obligations on both the buyer and the seller. Transparency is key for both parties, as Florida case law requires that sellers in particular disclose relevant information about the home or land. Failure to do so can lead to issues and, in extreme cases, to the rescission (invalidating) of the contract of sale. It is important to have legal help to guide you if any irregularities become apparent.

Seller Must Disclose, Not Remedy

Florida case law mandates that a seller of real property has to inform a prospective buyer of any defects of which they are aware. The case of Johnson v. Davis (1985) established that where a seller knows of any facts that would “materially [affect] the value of the property which are not readily observable,” they are required by law to inform the buyer. An accidental non-disclosure of a latent defect is not generally punishable – but a willful non-disclosure is.

That said, a seller is not necessarily required to take affirmative action to remedy the defects, and it is the buyer’s responsibility to hire a home inspector if they believe that the seller has made omissions. The seller must simply disclose – for example, if a home has a leaky roof, it would generally not be apparent until a rainstorm. The seller must inform the buyer, but if they choose to go ahead with the purchase and sale contract, it is the buyer’s responsibility to get the roof fixed.

Several Required Disclosures

In Florida, Johnson controls with regard to general disclosures, but there are other relevant statutes that add other factors that a seller is – or is not – required to disclose. For example, unlike in some states, Florida law currently does not require a seller to disclose if a property has ever been the site of a homicide, suicide, or diagnosis or infection of HIV; it is explicitly stated to not be a ‘material’ fact. By comparison, sellers are required to divulge environmental factors like the presence of certain gases, or the potential for erosion in a coastal piece of property.

While there are several different laws that a seller must comply with in order to go through with the purchase and sale contract, they all must be observed. If you are looking to buy real estate and you suspect that the seller in your case has failed to disclose all relevant defects and possible defects, your remedy will be determined on a case by case basis – but if you can establish a lack of disclosure, you may be able to seek money damages from the seller, or even move for the rescission of the contract. Consulting an attorney should be your first step.

Call A Tampa Real Estate Attorney

Buying real estate is an exciting endeavor – but it still can be a complex and time-consuming transaction, with requirements and responsibilities for all parties. If you have questions or concerns about potential defects in your case, call a Tampa real estate attorney today. The Seward Law Office has handled these cases before, and will work hard on yours. Call our office today to schedule a consultation.



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