Buyers have recourse if disclosures are false


Q: Last July, my husband and I bought a 30-year-old house. Both the real estate listing and the seller disclosure statement that we received at settlement indicated a public sewer system, which was an important factor in our choice of the house. But we recently learned that we are on a private septic system, which is now in need of cleaning or repair. Do we have legal grounds for damages?

Allyson Reynolds, Baltimore

A: Your situation would seem to present a classic case of what the seller disclosure statement was designed to remedy. The fact that your house was on a private septic system, not the public sewer system that you expected, is a material misrepresentation for which the law should be able to provide a remedy. You need to itemize and be able to support your damages.

At the very least, you should be able to recover the cost of cleaning the septic system, any repairs needed to place the system in good working order, plus a reasonable warranty normal for a septic system such as yours. I would call and obtain written estimates. Then you should write a letter to the seller of the house and the listing real estate agent outlining your claim including your list of damages.

If you do not receive an adequate response, then you need to file suit in the appropriate court. You should act quickly, since you may run up against a one-year statute of limitations.

You probably should consult with a real estate lawyer for more advice.

Q: My husband and I want to buy a house. We have a lease at our apartment that makes us responsible for two months of rent if we break our lease. Are we legally responsible to pay the two months' rent since we are buying a house?

Anita Turner, Baltimore

A: A lease is a legally enforceable contract. The fact that you are breaking your lease to buy a house does not excuse your legal obligation to honor the terms of your lease. If your lease contains a two-month buyout or escape clause, then you are legally responsible to pay the two months' rent. I recommend that you

give your landlord as much notice as possible.

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