Buying a house is one of the most significant financial decisions a person can make, so extensive termite damage is the last thing a person wants to find within their new home. Housing and real estate laws concerning the disclosure of termite damage differs from state to state. For example, in some states, sellers are required to disclose any type of defect in their home to potential buyers regardless of whether or not the buyer specifically asks about termite damage. Although termite damage to a home’s structural wood certainly seems like a “defect” to any reasonable person, in some states, sellers are only required to voluntarily disclose certain defects or conditions to potential buyers.
In the state of Massachusetts, the law only requires private sellers to voluntarily disclose whether or not their home has a septic tank, a cesspool or any type of private waste disposal system, as well as the condition of these disposal mechanisms. Private sellers in the state are also required to tell all potential buyers if their home contains lead paint, but there is no law in Massachusetts that requires sellers to specifically notify buyers about termite damage that their home has sustained. However, if a potential buyer inquires about termite damage within a home, then a private seller is legally obligated to fess up if he/she knows that termite damage exists within the home. This is why it is tremendously important for Massachusetts home-buyers to specifically ask a seller about termite damage within their home, otherwise sellers have little incentive to disclose information that may hinder their attempt to sell their termite-infested money pit. If an unscrupulous private seller of a termite-damaged home denies that such damage exists, then the person who purchased the home can sue the seller for fraud, breach of contract or misrepresentation. Luckily, Massachusetts real estate agents and brokers are held to a higher moral standard than private sellers when it comes to disclosure rules.
Chapter 93A of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act requires agents and brokers to disclose any information about a home that may influence a buyer’s decision to purchase the home. If an agent or broker either lies or withholds their knowledge of termite damage in a home that had been purchased, the seller can file a claim that may result in punitive damages that award the seller far more money than the damages ended up costing.
Considering the Massachusetts laws concerning private real estate contracts, it is of the utmost importance that potential homebuyers in the state have a termite inspection report conducted on the property of interest before making a purchase.
Do you think that private sellers frequently make efforts to hide termite damaged structural wood within the homes that they put on the market?