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Buying a new home can be an exciting and stressful process.  You search through endless listings and visit many different houses before making your decision.  You work through the contract process, finally complete the purchase and move into your new home.  However, what happens if you move into your new house and find out there are some undisclosed building code violations or defects in the home you purchased in Arizona?  It is important to address these issues immediately and document whether those issues were properly disclosed by the seller.

Understanding Disclosure Requirements in Arizona

The first step for reviewing your legal options after purchasing a new home is understanding the disclosure requirements for selling a house in Arizona.  According to Arizona Revised Statutes 33-422, the seller must provide a buyer with a written affidavit of disclosure before a sale.  The statute also includes a provision stating any language attempting to release or waive the seller’s liability for omission or misrepresentation is not valid.  If you worked with an Arizona Realtor, the seller’s property disclosure statement is a standard part of all purchase contracts.  This disclosure form has an extensive list of questions that must be answered by the seller and covers almost any potential known issue or defect with a property.

In Arizona, a buyer has five days to back out of a purchase contract for the purchase of a home after she receives the seller’s affidavit of disclosure.  The responsibility is on the seller to disclose any known material issues before selling a home in Arizona.  A buyer then has time to inspect those known issues and decide whether she wants to proceed with the transaction.

Review the Disclosure Statement with a Real Estate Attorney

A seller has the responsibility to disclose any known material information, defects, or building code violations before the sale of a home.  This means that if you find a defect or learn of other material information bearing on the value of the property after the purchase of a home, you will want to start with a full review of the disclosure statement provided by the seller with a real estate attorney.  If the seller fully disclosed the issue without misrepresenting the extent of the problem, then the buyer was properly notified according to Arizona law. Under such circumstances, it is generally the buyer’s responsibility to repair, even if she did not understand the complete scope of the defect or building code violation.  The buyer will also need to confirm she signed off on the seller’s disclosure statement and it was filed with the county clerk with the deed transfer.

Seller Did Not Disclose Building Code Violations or Defects in Arizona

If you find a building code violation or defect with the property after a purchase and it was not disclosed on the affidavit of disclosure, then you may have legal recourse against the seller.  These cases are handled in Arizona Superior Court for the district of the property.  There are multiple causes of action to pursue against a seller that did not properly disclose property defects, including breach of contract and fraud.  There are no specific penalties for a seller’s failure to disclose property defects, so you will need to discuss the case with an experienced real estate attorney.

The main challenge to pursuing a legal case for failure to disclose property defects is proving the seller had knowledge of the defects.  It is possible the seller did not know about those defects when he purchased the home and never properly inspected the property either.  Most major defects would be straightforward and would help prove the buyer had knowledge; but any legal case will require evidence that the seller knew about the defect and did not disclose it on the affidavit of disclosure before the sale.

As soon as you discover the defect, or learn of other undisclosed information, you will likely want to document it thoroughly with pictures and expert inspections to estimate costs to fix.  If possible, any contractors or companies that worked on the defects should be contacted to gather further evidence of their work on the property.  A real estate attorney will need to review all the evidence of the defect to evaluate whether a legal claim against the seller exists.

MacQueen & Gottlieb has significant experience with real estate disclosure laws in Arizona.  Our firm can help you evaluate any defects or building code violations found after the purchase of a home.  Contact us today at 602-533-2840 to schedule an initial consultation or make an appointment online.

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