Selling a house can be surprisingly tricky. There are several processes and paperwork involved, especially the legal part of it. That’s why you’re going to need all the legal help you can get to make sure you are covered in all the legal aspects of selling a house.
Getting a real estate litigation attorney is the very first step when you face legal troubles. However, even before that happens, there are five potential legal issues that you should know about when selling your house:
Misrepresentation is a common mistake and most often overlooked during the whole process of selling the property. This mistake can be made either by you or by your broker or agent. In 2010 alone, misrepresentation comprised 57% of all real estate lawsuits brought against sellers and/or real estate practitioners.
Misrepresentation ranges from, but is not limited to, the following:
- Misrepresented structural and foundation features
- Undisclosed title problems
- Undisclosed problems related to renovation without a permit, easements, etc.
- Misleading and/or false advertising
- Undisclosed property flaw
- Undisclosed property activity and/or history
- Property boundaries
- Termite problems not revealed
- Roof problems not accurately represented
It’s important that you have your house properly inspected and assessed before putting it out on the market. If you are hiring a real estate agent to help you sell the house, hire someone adequately equipped with this knowledge and knows what to do to fully prepare the house for sale.
Getting a lawyer involved to ensure all things are covered for the sale is even better. The key is to fully prepare the house for sale and be transparent to all the potential buyers of any issue, history, and/or status of the house.
2. Fair housing
This legal aspect can be very tricky. Furthermore, national, state, and/or city laws can add up to the legal complexities. Violations to this are very minimal for the past 5 years, accounting only to around 2%, but can be very costly.
There are many different and varying laws around fair housing. The more common legal issues around this include the following:
- Not selling to a certain race or ethnic background
- Posting statements, such as “perfect for empty nesters” and/or “no children,” in the ad
- Not selling to a certain gender or sexual orientation, such as the LGBTQ group
- Not selling to a person with disability
- Limiting the sale to a specific age group
- Limiting the sale based on marital status
- Not selling to a member of military service or to a veteran
The best way to avoid violations of the fair housing law is to educate yourself. There are a ton of resources online that you can read to understand the fair housing laws of your country, state, or city. Websites that provide services for lawyers are very good references.
3. Lead paint
While laws against lead-based paints are not applicable in all countries, it is still wise to understand how lead paints may potentially become a legal issue when selling the house. There are specific laws in certain countries and/or states that prohibit the use of lead-based paint in houses.
There are also laws that may allow the use of lead-based paint but require the seller to disclose this during the selling process. Lead-based paints pose a high risk to health, and prolonged exposure to lead can cause illness or even death. Information regarding the use of lead-based paints should be properly disclosed when selling the house.
There are also regulations that are required when lead-based paints are used, such as:
- Encapsulating dangerous levels of lead on walls and surfaces; and
- Removing any lead-based paints when selling the house to a household that includes children under the age of 6.
4. Environmental issues
Environmental issues when selling a house are not uncommon. Misses such as not properly disclosing the use of asbestos can turn into a costly lawsuit. Other misses include the following:
- Groundwater contamination;
- Septic regulation violation;
- Construction materials used; and
- Garbage and waste disposal.
These are easy things to inspect, assess, and comply with. Environmental requirements of the city are available at the local city office and even on the Internet. It’s best to make yourself aware of this subject to avoid going into a lengthy and costly lawsuit involving environmental issues after selling your house.
When you are selling a house, you have to make sure you have paid all the required taxes beforehand. This includes all the property, city, and/or state taxes. Hiring a lawyer and an accountant can help you assess whether you’ve paid all the taxes due for the house.
On top of that, you are also required to pay for capital tax gains when selling your property, especially if it is your main residence. A solicitor will help you determine the exact amount of fees that you will have to pay to your country or city revenue bureau.
There are a lot of things that you need to prepare when selling your property. This includes doing all the necessary prep work, such as making sure your property is ready for sale. In addition, you need to be aware, educated, and trained on potential legal issues that may be involved when selling a house to avoid any problems in the future.
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