In speaking about Seller required disclosures, each state in the contiguous United States has its own set of requirements. For example, in Massachusetts, Sellers are specifically required to disclose the presence of lead paint, a septic system instead of municipal waste service on a property, or of any known material defects within the Seller’s knowledge.
There are two specific forms that are required for all sales related to the two mentioned required Seller disclosures. They are:
1. The form for lead paint is called the Property Transfer Lead Paint Notification.
2. The form to use if a septic system exists is called the Title 5 Official Inspection Form.
Other than these two required disclosures, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a Caveat Emptor state, meaning the onus is on the Buyer to perform due diligence before making a purchase. If a Seller is asked about something that may be unknown to the Buyer, they must also disclose any information that is within their knowledge. Issues such as mold, easements, previous water damage, asbestos, etc., all fall within this category. However, if a Seller is not specifically asked, and the item is not considered a known material defect, then no disclosure is required.
To learn more about Massachusetts’ Efforts to Prevent and Respond to Childhood Lead Exposure, click here.
There are some other grey areas, which often have to do with psychologically affected properties. For example, for a property to be psychologically affected, it might mean that a death occurred there, that it is assumed to be haunted, etc. This situation is another area in which Sellers are not required to specify whether or not a property is impacted to a Buyer unless specifically asked.
I have always guided my clients to play it safe and felt comfortable using a Seller’s Statement of Property condition, which both parties in a transaction acknowledge once a buyer has been identified. The more you know as an agent and for both parties involved in the transaction, the better. Often this property condition form, when we were required to use it in Central Massachusetts real estate transactions, prompted knowledge that the homeowner had long forgotten. I have also referred to the completed form, post-transaction, when items were in question.
Should you have any questions about what is right or wrong when you are thinking of listing your property, please call me and we can lean on 18 years of real estate experience to guide us.