A big house, real property disclosures

Sellers of real property in Illinois are required to make disclosures to buyers regarding the safety and condition of the property. These disclosures give buyers the information they need to determine whether a property is a good or bad investment. Sellers who fail to disclose known defects and faults can be held liable for damages under Illinois law.

Required Real Estate Disclosures

Sellers are required to notify potential buyers of adverse events such as floods, fires, infestations, and environmental issues including the presence of toxic substances such as asbestos, lead, or radon. Sellers must also notify prospective buyers whether there are any boundary line disputes or structural defects such as shifting foundations or leaky roofs. They must also notify buyers of any damaged components and systems such as faulty wiring, HVAC systems, etc.

Home Inspections Are Not Required

Sellers in Illinois are not obligated to have a home inspection completed prior to the sale of real property. This responsibility falls to the home buyer. In Illinois, sellers are only required to notify buyers of known defects to the structure. For this reason, it is advisable to hire a reputable home inspector who can determine whether or not the home is structurally sound, and whether any defects are present. This information can help buyers determine the precise condition of the home and the expenses any necessary repairs or remodeling will create.

Home inspectors will examine the structural components of the home including the foundation and the framing. They will examine exterior features such as sidewalks and railings, and they will inspect the roof system. A home inspection will also include a thorough examination of the electrical system, plumbing, HVAC system, insulation, and any fireplaces, chimneys, or vents that are present.

Buyers may need to request additional inspections be conducted on features such as hot tubs, swimming pools, sprinkler systems, or alarm systems. These items are not covered in the course of many standard inspections. However, because these systems can cause significant damage and represent a considerable expense to repair, it is a wise idea to have them inspected if they are present on the property.

Few Exceptions to Disclosure

There are very few instances where a seller can avoid the need for disclosure. These instances include divesting the property to a divorcing spouse, bankruptcy, foreclosure, distribution during the estate process, or transfer of the property to a family member.

Sometimes, sellers will attempt to skirt disclosure laws by inserting an “as is” provision within the contract. However, Illinois law does not allow sellers to ignore the disclosure requirements set forth by the state. This helps protect buyers and prevents property owners from making undue profits by offloading properties with significant structural damage.

However, sellers are not required to disclose events such as deaths, certain crimes, or suicides that took place on the property.

Mold Disclosure

Mold disclosure is not required by Illinois law. However, it is important for homebuyers to request this prior to the purchase of real property. The presence of mold can have a significant impact on health and quality of life. Moreover, it can cost thousands of dollars to remove it and remediate a home that has mold damage. Given the damp and humid environment present in Illinois, no one should buy a home without securing a mold disclosure from the seller.

Penalties for Failing to Disclose

Buyers may terminate a contract if the seller deliberately fails to disclose known property defects or delivers a property disclosure that is incomplete. In Illinois, property sellers may be held liable for actual damages, court costs, and attorney’s fees.

Sellers cannot be held liable for errors, inaccuracies, or omissions that they did not have prior knowledge of. For example, if a licensed engineer, surveyor, home inspector, etc., fails to notice something, it is not the seller’s responsibility. Rather, that liability falls on the individual/company that failed to detect and notify the buyer of the defect. When this happens, a Chicago real estate lawyer can help buyers trace the history of the defect and identify the parties responsible.

Addenda to Disclosure

Instances can arise where defects present themselves after a property disclosure form has been submitted to the buyer. When this happens, a seller must submit a supplemental disclosure to the buyer prior to closing. As with all disclosures, these must be provided to the buyer in writing for them to be in compliance with state law.

Statute of Limitations

Illinois law requires that action for violating the Residential Real Property Act commence no later than one year from the date the buyer takes possession, begins occupancy, or records the transfer of the title. For this reason, it is imperative to act quickly should a defect become apparent after a property has been purchased. Failing to do so can leave the buyer responsible for the financial costs associated with any necessary repairs or remediation.