05 Apr I Unknowingly Bought A House With Water Damage. What Can I Do?
Nothing is worse than buying a home only to find water damage when you move in. Once the home buyer takes possession, is there any action they can take to remedy the situation? Whether you discover water damage immediately or years later, if the damage existed prior to possession, the home buyer may have reason to take legal action.
What Should I Do When I Find Water Damage?
You should act quickly if you find water damage. Contact your real estate attorney, who will check if your claim is timely under the law. They will also check your purchase contract and Seller’s disclosures and review the seller’s warranties and obligations. They will also read over your inspection contract and report to see if the defect was reported and if there are liability limits.
An investigation may help prove your case, such as finding out if work had been performed on the home, if there are records of permits acquired to make corrections, or even if neighbors spoke of the water damage with the previous owners. Once your lawyer determines you have a case, they can send a demand letter to the responsible party asking for money to pay for the repairs. The responsible party may even offer to pay just to avoid a lawsuit.
Who Is Responsible?
Home buyers can sue sellers if you can prove they knew of the water damage but failed to disclose the information. Sellers in Illinois are required under the Illinois Residential Real Property Disclosure Act to disclose all defects listed on a list of potential defects, of which they had actual knowledge. If not, the law considers them to have failed to disclose.
In addition, home inspectors who fail to list defects in the inspection report can also be liable based on the Department Of Financial And Professional Regulation standards. They must list anything on their report that is found unsafe or not functioning properly and whether they should be corrected or just monitored for future issues. Keep in mind, however, some inspectors smartly cover their bases with either limited liability or a waiver of liability in their inspection contract.
Is it Worth Pursuing?
Possibly. Under the Illinois Residential Real Property Disclosure Act, you may be entitled to your out of pocket costs to repair the property damage, legal fees, or forcing the seller to buy the property back from you. However, the onus or burden of proof is on you which can make pursuing a claim difficult. That’s why calling your real estate attorney is the first step to help you!