Posted Jun 8, 2020
By Washington State Business and Real Estate Law, and Litgation Lawyer Andrew M. McKenzie
Over the last half-century or more, the public has grown accustomed to laws protecting consumers. We hear of large damage awards for perceived minor breaches of duties owed to a consumer. In such an environment, buyers of real estate may be lulled into a false sense of security, assuming incorrectly that they may rely mostly or exclusively on a seller’s disclosures or warnings in order to make an informed decision. The unwitting buyer may think to themselves, for example, “If the seller does not disclose a defect to me before the transaction closes, and I discover it later, I will just sue them.” But the reality is far more complex, and Washington law does not look kindly on buyers who neglect proper due diligence.
In general terms, one could say that ensuring the buyer’s intelligent purchase decision is the shared responsibility of both buyer and seller. Ordinarily, however, the seller will be required to disclose only the material fact actually known to them, not facts which they “almost” know and could obtain with even a small amount of research. The research and investigation burden normally falls on the buyer. Real estate listings typically contain phrases like, “buyer to verify all information.” This is a signal to buyers that the seller or seller’s broker is conveying only their understanding, rather than warranting the accuracy of that understanding, and that buyers should not rely upon information without independently verifying it. Strange as it may seem, in some cases, sellers have even escaped liability for fraudulent concealment because the buyer failed to obtain discoverable information about defects before the sale closed. This highlights the importance of due diligence by all buyers. Buyers should investigate not only the physical condition of property, but also any issues which could affect intended future use or renovation. Always make use of public records when they are available. If you are not proficient in obtaining and analyzing this information, do not proceed with the transaction until you have consulted with appropriate experts who can digest and synthesize relevant information for you. Beresford Booth lawyers have a wealth of real estate experience and can competently advise you regarding the issues you need to consider in making an informed purchase decision.
The lawyers at Beresford Booth have extensive civil litigation experience and would be happy to assist you with your litigation needs.
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