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Also known as a property disclosure, a home disclosure is a document prepared by owners when they wish to sell a home or other piece of residential property. The disclosure will include an itemized list of material facts related to the condition of the dwelling, allowing prospective buyers to make informed decisions about purchasing the real estate holding. In many countries, failure to prepare a complete and honest home disclosure is grounds for declaring the sales contract null and void.
In terms of material facts, the home disclosure will address the condition of the specific systems around the home. This will include the electrical wiring, the plumbing and any related fixtures, and any appliances that are sold along with the home. The current status of any central heating units or air conditioning systems will also be spelled out in detail. Disclosures also address the structural integrity of the home, including such important factors as any internal doors that may stick, a floor that creaks, or window casings that are deteriorated and in need of replacement.
Many jurisdictions have disclosure laws and regulations that govern the sale of real estate within their boundaries. Often, the regulations are very specific about what must be included in any home disclosure. It is not unusual for jurisdictions to provide forms, or at least a checklist, that will aid the seller in preparing an accurate home disclosure document that can be presented to any prospective buyer.
When the seller does not honor disclosure regulations and laws, there is the possibility that disclosure fraud may take place. Essentially, this type of fraud involves omitting important data that the seller had about the condition of the home, but chose to not include in the home disclosure document. This could include something as simple as failing to mention that the attic fan is not operable, or as large as the fact that termite damage was discovered in a home addition or wing and is an ongoing problem.
Depending on the nature of the laws concerning home disclosure obligations, the buyer may be able to declare the sale null and void and receive a full refund of any cash paid to the seller. In some jurisdictions, the buyer may also have legal recourse, making it possible to sue the former owner for damages if it can be proven that he or she willingly and knowingly omitted material information about the condition of the house or any other buildings on the property. There may also be some risk of criminal charges involving negligence, depending on the prevailing laws that apply to the area.