In today’s property market, it seems that the sellers have all of the leverage. Prospective buyers are given very little time to make decisions and have inspections done. This scenario often leads to actual property conditions or information in the legal paperwork being overlooked.
In Wisconsin, sellers are required to disclose any issues related to the property they are selling. This is most commonly handled in the Property Condition Report. This document is essentially a checklist where the seller checks boxes related to any potential issues with the property that a prospective buyer should be aware of. In addition, there are MLS sheets that provide a fact sheet and additional information about the property.
While these documents exist to aid the property buyer, there are a lot of grey areas that can arise if a seller chooses to be dishonest or not completely disclose certain items of information.
Can You Prove a Property Seller Knew About an Issue in Wisconsin?
A property buyer who comes across issues after they claim ownership of the property may seek damages from the seller. But, the burden of proving that the previous owner knew about the issues and chose not to disclose them can make the situation complex. Situations that muddy the waters of proof are outlined below.
A common issue when a property defect arises is when the seller discloses the problem partially. This leaves questions on whether the seller knew that the problem was more significant than they disclosed in the condition report.
In Wisconsin, water damage is a standard partial disclosure that happens in property sales. For example, the seller may have noted that water seepage occurs during spring melt or heavy rains in the building’s basement. The buyer may have been okay with that and purchased the property, only to find out that the basement floods regularly.
While it is likely that the seller knew that the water in the basement was more than a seepage issue, it can be challenging to prove. If this has happened to you, getting a Milwaukee business attorney involved is essential.
Concealing the Issue
In some cases, a seller may have fully intended to conceal an issue and not noted it all on the Property Condition Report. Concealment happens commonly in Wisconsin when the seller takes great effort to cover up an issue.
Using the basement flooding issue above, the seller may have had a crack in the foundation professionally filled, sealed, and painted over, making it difficult for a buyer to detect. If this cover-up is later discovered and relates to an issue with the property, the buyer could seek reimbursement from the seller.
With either of the above situations, the time between the sale of the property and the discovery of the issue is crucial. Defects discovered soon after the sale are more accessible to link to the seller than some that arise years later. Much of the issue is that the more time that passes, the more difficult it is to prove that it was something that the previous property owner was aware of.
Another factor is how often the issue occurs. For example, a recurring problem that first happens within months of the sale is more accessible to link to the previous owner than something that happens just once, further out from the sale.
No matter what issue arises with a new property purchased, any action will need to involve a Wisconsin business litigation attorney. The professionals at Kerkman & Dunn will stand behind buyers that were wronged.