What Is A Seller’s Legal Obligation to Disclose House Defects?

What Is A Seller’s Legal Obligation to Disclose House Defects?



It used to be a buyer beware situation when buying a home in Illinois. However, in 1994 new laws were introduced switching the onus on the seller to disclose information about known defects. This helps protect the buyers from possible issues with the condition of the home that could interfere with their safe enjoyment of the home or lead to costs due to repairs and damages. A real estate attorney can help walk you through the disclosure obligations, to avoid messy lawsuits from angry buyers. 

Here’s what you need to know about a seller’s legal obligation to disclose house defects.  

What Types of Disclosures Must a Home Seller Make?

In Illinois, you must sign a document listing any known material defects in the home. Defects are considered anything that negatively impacts the value, healthfulness, and safety of a property. Some examples of what is considered known material defects would include:

  • A past flood in the home
  • Boundary line disputes
  • Structural defects
  • Environmental issues like mold
  • Municipal code violations in renovations
  • Issues with plumbing or electrical


Of course, it is impossible to list everything you know about the property, so the process is made easier using a standardized form.

How is the Form Completed and Delivered?

Your real estate attorney can review the form with you and help you complete it prior to signing a sales contract. The areas covered on the form include:

  • Water-related issues such as:

    • Crawl space or basement floods or leaks
    • Being located in a flood plain
    • Issues in the basement or foundation
    • Leaks in the roof, ceilings, or chimney


  • Material defects in:
    • Roof, ceilings, or chimney
    • Walls, windows, doors, or floors
    • Electrical
    • Plumbing system
    • Water heater
    • Sump pump
    • Water treatment system
    • Sprinkler system
    • Swimming pool
    • Wells or well equipment
    • Fireplaces or wood burning stoves
    • Heating, air conditioning, or ventilating systems
    • Septic, sanitary sewer, or another disposal system


  • Unsafe conditions in:
    • Drinking water
    • Concentrations of radon, or related to asbestos, lead paint, lead water pipes, lead plumbing pipes or lead in the soil on the premises.


  • Stability issues such as:
    • Mine subsidence
    • Underground pits
    • Settlement
    • Sliding
    • Upheaval
    • Other earth stability defects


  • Infestations:
    • Termites or other wood-boring insects or structural defect caused by previous infestations


  • Other issues including:
    • Underground fuel storage tanks on the property
    • Boundary or lot line disputes
    • Uncorrected violation of local, state, or federal laws or regulations relating to the property
    • Property used for the manufacture of methamphetamine


You simply check either yes or no on the list, or choose not applicable. If something is not on the list, but you feel it could be an issue, discuss it with your real estate attorney. They can determine if it does fall under the legal requirements of disclosure.

What Happens Once the Form is Submitted?

Should you discover a defect or error after you submit the form, and prior to closing, a supplemental disclosure must be completed and sent to the buyer. Your attorney can inform the buyer’s attorney of the mistake.

A real estate attorney can help ensure the forms are completed accurately so you can avoid possible penalties and lawsuits for failure to disclose.

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