Protecting Your Interests
Given the Pagano v. Krohn case, one of the best methods you can practice to avoid future legal liabilities is to document any observable defects you note while in the process of inspecting a property. It does not matter if you’re representing the seller or the buyer; your process should be the same. A common law dictum states, “Ignorance is no excuse for the law.” In other words, the law will not excuse an agent who does not recognize and disclose something they should have seen. So what does this requirement mean? As previously identified, a court does not expect that you should have the expertise of a professional property inspector, so you’re not expected to snake through the crawl space or look behind fuse box panels; rather, you are only expected to observe and identify your observations of potential flaws like unusual odors or indications of ceiling leaks. That is, you should identify flawed characteristics that are readily observable.
Sample questions you could ask to identify obvious defects include:
- Are there cracks in the foundation?
- Do the exterior or interior walls require painting?
- Are the fences in good condition?
- Is the ground sloped away from the foundation?
- Is there any standing water on the property or signs of previous standing water?
- Does the driveway have cracks in it?
- Are the floors squeaky or springy?
- Do the light switches work?
- Is there hot water?
- Does the lawn irrigation system work? Is there a lawn irrigation system?
- Are there velvet-like stains on any interior walls?
- Are there any unusual odors or smells?
Your account of property flaws should be directed at the significant ones. That is, those flaws that would require considerable effort and/or expense to repair including:
- Electrical Systems
- Environmental Factors such as Mold
- Foundation Shifts
- Heating and Air Conditioning Systems
- Structural Factors such as Drooping Roof Lines or Uneven Floors
- Water Drainage