What is a Residential Real Estate Property Disclosure Form?
When people look at buying a home, they easily see things like the color of the walls, number of bedrooms and baths, size of the yard and can imagine where their favorite chair or mamaw’s cabinet would fit.
What they often find hard or impossible to see are major issues affecting the roof, electrical, plumbing, heating or air conditioning systems. For this reason, with certain exceptions, Ohio Revised Code 5302.30 requires property disclosure forms to be completed and provided to prospective sellers for all residential real estate property transfers.
Historically Ohio considered two types of defects in a property, patent or latent.
Patent defects are those that can be discovered by taking the time to reasonably and carefully inspect a property. For example, a reasonable inspection might determine that a tin roof was installed on a house. This would be a patent defect.
A latent defect is one that is not discoverable even if a person reasonably and carefully inspects a property. Using the prior example, it is easy to see if a tin roof was installed on the house. A buyer would not be able to tell if that tin roof was installed over a tar paper roof and plywood that had been affected by termites. The wood and termites would be considered a latent defect.
There were many cases decided that hinged on whether a defect was patent or latent, was the issue easy to spot after careful inspection. In 1993 Ohio, following the lead of several other states took that question largely out of the court’s hands by establishing a procedure of how a seller must disclose issues related to the condition of the home like:
What kind of water supply serves the property?
What kind of sewer system serves the property?
Has the roof leaked or are the currently leaks?
Has the basement or crawl space flooded?
What kind of foundation and walls does the house have?
Have there ever been issues with termites?
Are there or were there any underground fuel storage tanks?
Have there been any issues with zoning or a homeowners association?
Are there questions about the lot lines?
It is important to know that these disclosures do not have to detail every issue. For example, if part of the rain gutter system is missing the seller may not be required to report a water spot on the laundry room drop ceiling. However, the seller must not attempt to conceal the water spot by painting over it or otherwise concealing the issue.
In addition to Ohio requirements, a federal law titled the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 requires sellers to tell buyers about all known lead-based paint hazards in the home. Some are old enough to remember when lead-based paint and lead-based gasoline were the norms. Both were phased out in the 1970s with lead-based paint being banned for consumer use by the federal government in 1978.
Beyond the property disclosure form, I recommend home buyers work with a home inspector. Even if they are experienced in real estate or construction, prospective buyers get emotionally attached and might miss something. It also helps to have an independent opinion when it comes time to renegotiate based on conditions that might need attention.