Suing for nondisclosure of a defect in a home

You just bought your first home -- so, congratulations are in order! You're excited, and you're ready to settle in!

Unfortunately, it doesn't take long before you realize that there were a few "little" things that the seller neglected to mention in the listing of the home or disclosure forms -- and you're absolutely certain that the issue isn't new, and the seller had to have known about the problem.

For example, if you bought your home in the winter, you may have no way of knowing that the backyard of the house -- and then the basement -- flooded with every spring rain. The basement was freshly painted and had new carpet installed before you bought the home (and now you think you know why), so there was no hint of trouble before the purchase.

Obviously, you realize that you're going to have to have the basement waterproofed for safety's sake -- and you wouldn't have purchased the home if you'd known about the problem. That leads you to wonder if you possibly have a viable lawsuit that would allow you to recover your losses.

Maybe. Every case of this kind is very fact-specific, but there are some possible culpable parties:

  • The seller -- If there's evidence that the seller knew about the defect and omitted the information (or even purposefully hid the issue) to make the sale, you may be able to force the seller to pay for your necessary repairs.

  • The real estate agent -- Sellers aren't always alone in their shenanigans. Sometimes, a real estate agent will encourage sellers to make cosmetic repairs that will hide real problems, knowing that buyers won't find out about the issue for months after the purchase is over.

  • The home inspector -- Sometimes, home inspectors make mistakes or have a lapse in judgment that could make them responsible for any defects that they overlooked. If the defect is one the home inspector should have caught, he or she may also be liable.

Whatever your situation, if the repair is expensive, it's definitely worth your while to talk the situation over with an experienced residential real estate attorney in New York to see if you have legal recourse.