Prior to buying a home, you should do research to ensure that your home does not have any major defects. Even if you complete a thorough review of the property, you still must trust the seller not to conceal any non-obvious issues. In the event that a defect has been concealed, New York law provides for legal recourse.

General Rule for Home Defects in New York

The general rule in New York is caveat emptor, or "Let the buyer beware." This means that a New York court will not give any remedies to a buyer who discovers a defect after he has purchased a home unless the seller did something egregious to hide the defect. Nevertheless, New York courts have loosened up the standard and have held sellers liable.

Property Condition Disclosure Act

Under New York law, seller must give a signed disclosure statement prior to the purchase of the home. The statement proves that the buyer had actual notice of the defect of the home.

Remedies at Common Law

Even if the seller provides a disclosure statement, the buyer still has a cause of action against the seller under fraud, misrepresentation, and breach of contract. Some times, the seller may disclose the defect, but does not state the severity of the defect.

Real Estate Broker’s Liability

Like the seller, the real estate broker may be liable for non-disclosure, fraud and misrepresentation. Pursuant to the Property Condition Disclosure Act, the broker must also disclose all the defects that are material to the home. The broker cannot partner up with the seller to misguide the buyer.

The broker may be liable for negligence. The broker cannot turn a blind eye against the deceit of the seller. He must act in good faith towards the buyer.

Can a Home Inspector Be Liable?

A home inspector will be liable for the defects if he failed to follow New York Department of State Division of Licensing’s regulations or if he was negligent during his inspection. Negligence is established where the defect was within the scope of the inspection, and a reasonable inspector would have found the defect or the inspector failed to report the defect.

Do I Need a New York Real Estate Lawyer?

Prove a construction defect and asking for a settlement amount may be a very long and complicated process. Thus, a knowledgeable real estate attorney in New York can assist you and advise you on the proper steps to take.