Required Disclosures in Florida Home Purchases

February 16, 2023

“Buyer beware” is an overriding principle in many purchases. It has historically been associated with real estate purchases. However, buying a house or condo is an extremely complex transaction. Few people are structural engineers, architects, or home inspectors, so are homebuyers supposed to simply trust that sellers will tell them everything they need to know?

Thankfully, no. Florida’s disclosure requirements for home sellers are not as strong as those in other states, but there are a few important things home sellers must disclose—or risk a long court battle.

Latent Defects, Explained

Floridians hoping to sell their house must generally disclose ## latent defects they had knowledge of prior to listing the property. Latent defects are defects not usually visible to the naked eye. A dent in a bedroom wall, for example, would not be an example of a latent defect because a cursory glance of a house’s interior should reveal such a defect.

Common examples of defects that usually qualify as latent include wood rot or mold inside walls, leaky roofs with no obvious water damage, termite infestations, and faulty electrical systems. Any of these conditions would be of great interest to prospective buyers.

How Should You Disclose Latent Defects?

However, sellers are not necessarily required to disclose every single latent defect to buyers. Florida law only requires sellers to disclose defects that are expected to materially affect the value or desirability of the house. Whether or not a defect can be considered material is subjective; consulting with a Florida real estate attorney can help you disclose the right things without putting a prospective sale in serious jeopardy.

Additionally, there is no state law requiring sellers to make defect disclosures in writing. The Florida Association of Realtors offers a disclosure form where sellers may affirm their knowledge of the house’s condition. This form is quite thorough, but its usage is not required—only suggested. Sellers may make verbal disclosures, but those are more likely than written disclosures to be disputed in court.

‘As-Is’ is NOT a Defense for Sellers

Many homebuyers are accepting as-is properties during this time of high demand. However, selling a property as-is only means that sellers are not expected to make any repairs or upgrades requested by the buyer. It does not absolve sellers of their obligation to disclose known latent defects that materially affect the house’s property or desirability.

Let the Experts Take Charge

The dream of homeownership is a priority for most Floridians. That doesn’t change the fact that a real estate purchase can be quite stressful and complicated. You don’t have to be an expert to have a smooth process in this situation, but you generally need at least one expert to stand by your side and protect your interests. Our team would be honored to do that for you as you prepare to buy, sell, or refinance. Call us at (954) 771-8929 to discuss your needs today.