There are risks to selling homes in Massachusetts. As a seller, you can be liable for things that you say (or don’t say) and do (or don’t do). Sometimes it’s difficult to know when you are putting yourself at risk. Here are a few ways that home sellers can avoid lawsuits in Massachusetts.
Disclose All Known Facts
By law, sellers must disclose all known facts/defects about a home being sold. Sellers often get in trouble when they fail to disclose something that the buyer later uncovers. If a buyer can prove that a seller had knowledge of an issue or should have had knowledge of it, they may have a legal case. How would the buyer know that sellers had knowledge? Perhaps the sellers spoke to a neighbor about the problem or there’s evidence that the sellers tried to conceal it.
Use the Phrase, “I Don’t Know”
Sellers sometimes feel obligated to answer questions, even when they don’t know the answer. It’s important to know that it’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” Sellers should never be scared to do so. For instance, if a buyer asks if it’s possible to build a garage on the property. Unless a seller is on the building commission or has already submitted such a request for approval, it’s impossible to know the answer. Perhaps the home appears to meet the setback and other requirements for adding a garage, but there’s really no guarantee that it would be approved. In cases like this, sellers should avoid making incorrect statements.
Focus on Facts Rather than Opinions
In an effort to be helpful, sellers often provide opinions when answering questions. This can be dangerous too! It’s best to stick to facts and avoid expressing opinions, especially if a buyer is relying on that opinion in their decision to purchase a home. For example, if a buyer asks whether a certain wall can be taken down, a seller may have an opinion that it can be. Without information from a contractor or structural engineer to back up that statement, it is only an opinion and not a fact. Sellers should revert to our first recommendation by saying “I don’t know” and avoid offering any personal opinion.
Other Ways Home Sellers Can Avoid Lawsuits in Massachusetts
It’s optional to hire an attorney when selling a home in Massachusetts. Your attorney can help you minimize the risks of selling by advising you on certain disclosures and including protective language in Purchase & Sales agreements. Real estate agents are responsible for assisting you through the transaction, but they cannot answer legal questions. Having your own attorney is the best way to protect your interests and avoid lawsuits later down the line. Contact us today for assistance with your home sale in Massachusetts.