Property disclosure laws dictate what a seller must tell a potential buyer about the property before making a sale. We told you about some common title problems, and now we will cover the property disclosure rules in one of the states we service- New Jersey.
New Jersey is one of the few remaining states that has no property disclosure law, but that does not mean that all responsibility lies with the buyer. In fact, the courts have carved out common law exemptions that protect buyers from sellers who either do not disclose or conceal material facts.
Sellers must promise that a home is fit to live in, unless it is sold “as is”. They also must disclose any material defects that are not plainly discernible. If there are structural problems or environmental hazards that could harm the health of residents, the seller must disclose them.
All representations and promises the seller makes about the property should appear in the sale contract. The standard contract states that all equipment and systems are in working order, given their age and type. It likely contains a statement about use of the property and a promise that its use is not in violation of any zoning restrictions. In the case of property improvements, the seller swears to have followed all permitting rules. If improvements or additions were not disclosed to the municipality, the seller must file an “omitted assessment” and pay any back taxes owed. Should the municipality find out at a later date after the sale, the buyer will be on the hook for the charges, but may come looking for recuperation.
In New Jersey, “as is” indicates to the buyer that the seller is not willing to make any repairs to the property. The buyer still retains right to cancel the contract should an inspection reveal defects of grave concern. Because disclosure rules are so complicated in New Jersey, it is best to err on the side of full transparency. Most realtors will require sellers to fill out a disclosure form, and most buyers will want to see one. For title insurance in New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, call Members Settlement Services at 610-482-4086 or visit them online.