Buying a house is a huge investment. Unless you build the house for your family, there may always be some things that you don’t know about your house before you buy it or for years thereafter.
Imagine that of one of the previous owners had died years earlier. The Seller may or may not have actual knowledge of anything that occurred prior to their ownership. Nonetheless, the Seller has no obligation to tell the Buyer if the person died in the home unless the Buyer asks a direct, specific question about it (ie. Has anyone ever died in this house?).
Massachusetts law puts the burden on the Buyer to ask the “right” questions of the Seller. The most significant way that most Buyers do their due diligence is by getting a very thorough inspection; however, there are two exceptions to this rule:
1. Lead paint: Under Section 197a, prior to signing a Purchase and Sales, the Seller must provide a signed copy of a lead paint disclosure. The Property Transfer Notification Certification advises the Buyer about the general dangers of lead paint and provides any information that the Seller might have about its presence in the property. This is one of the few documents that the real estate agents must sign during the entire transaction, but they are only confirming that they presented the information to the Buyer; and
2. Septic: Sellers must disclose whether there is a septic system on the property. Prior to closing, the Sellers must also provide a Title V which confirms that the system is working properly. Many Sellers will have the Title V inspection done prior to listing their home to avoid any potential issues that might be raised.
Some Buyer questions may also be answered by a simple Google search. Most sellers would not disclose if the house had some friendly (or unfriendly) ghosts; however, a simple online search might provide an answer to a curious Buyer.
Is there anything that you would want or not want to know about your house?
As always, please let us know if you have any questions about this or any other legal matters.
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