Claim depends on seller’s knowledge

  Question: Three months ago, we purchased a beautiful home in the Arcadia area of Phoenix. The seller sold the home “as is.” In the seller’s property disclosure statement, there was no mention of any roof problems.

  Last week, we had the first significant rainfall since we purchased our home. We had several leaks throughout our home, especially around the chandelier in the dining room. We contacted a roofing contractor to repair the roof, and he said that we needed a brand new roof at a cost of $14,000. He also said that the roof had been repaired several times in the past few years.

  Do we have a claim against the seller for the $14,000 to repair the roof even though the home was sold “as is”?

  Answer: Probably. The sale of a home “as is” does not protect a dishonest seller. You will have to prove, however, that the seller had actual knowledge of the roof problems, and therefore committed fraud by failing to disclose these roof problems to you.

  Actual knowledge, however, does not require a confession by the seller. Actual knowledge can be proven by the statement of your roofing contractor about prior roof repairs, and by any statements from neighbors that your seller had complained about roof problems. You should also contact other roofing contractors in the community who might have done roof repairs on the home.

  In one lawsuit the seller failed to disclose any roof problems, but then left roof repair bills in a kitchen drawer after the seller moved out. In your question you did not say how long the seller had owned the home. In some communities today, almost half of the sellers are banks and investors who acquired the home after foreclosure. These sellers typically sell the home quickly after acquisition and have no knowledge of the condition of the home, including any prior roof problems.

  If you would like assistance regarding commercial or residential transactions, financing, potential litigation, HOA issues, estate planning or other legal matters, please call our office at 602.957.9810 and arrange for an initial consultation with one of our real estate attorneys.

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