Before you can sell your Louisiana home, state law requires you to make certain disclosures to potential buyers about its condition, and that of the surrounding property and structures. The purpose is to prevent nasty surprises for the buyer later. Imagine how you would feel if, for example, you moved into a home and realized that it had a termite infestation, or that none of the lights worked, and that the seller had hidden these truths. At worst, such a buyer might sue. This brief article will outline your disclosure requirements to potential buyers, so as to avoid outcomes such as anger and lawsuits.
Louisiana Revised Statutes § 9:3198 governs disclosures by sellers like yourself. It states that you must complete a property disclosure document in a form prescribed by the Louisiana Real Estate Commission and deliver it to prospective buyers.
As you'll see, this form requires you to detail any material facts of which you are aware that negatively affect the property, ranging from the condition of the roof to that of the gas tank.
Many of the disclosure categories included on the form are what you might expect a homebuyer to be interested in knowing before making an offer or purchasing. You must answer "Yes," "No," or in some cases "NK" for no knowledge.
For example, Section 3 asks about the property's "Structure," including things like roof, pool, windows, ceilings and "Other."
Take careful note of the "Other" section; it's an indication to you that you shouldn't leave material defects off the form merely because it didn't specify a particular feature of your property.
Section 4 asks about the condition of the plumbing, water, gas, and sewer systems. Section 5 asks about the electrical, heating, and cooling systems, and about appliances.
You must also state or disclose:
You may make comments to supplement your answers. These are a good way to explain any issues if "yes" or "no" doesn't tell the whole story.
Study each of these disclosures carefully before answering, and check with your real estate agent or attorney if uncertain how to answer.
According to the statute, you must deliver the completed and signed property disclosure document to the before the purchase contract is signed.
If you do not, the buyer may terminate your contract or withdraw the offer within the 72 hours (excluding federal and state holidays and weekends) after receiving the disclosure form. Clearly, the Louisiana legislature wants you to give the disclosure statement early and ensure that the buyer has a few days in which to study it before making the final decision to purchase.
No. Louisiana disclosure laws do not require you to hire an engineer or home inspector before selling your home. The buyer is encouraged to make that investment. You merely need to complete the disclosure form in good faith, to the extent that you know the answers to the questions.
You might be wondering: What does it mean to have "knowledge" of a defect? You probably do not know about every issue in your home. Actual knowledge means that you know your water pipe is defective; not just that you're speculating that, because your pipes are old, an inspector might (if you hired one) tell you that your pipes are broken. Louisiana requires only that you disclose what you know.
Why would your elected representatives in Baton Rouge make it harder for you to sell your home by leading buyers straight to the problems with it, latent or otherwise?
The legislature is actually doing you a favor: If you disclose a known defect, the purchaser cannot turn around months after the transaction has closed and sue you for fraud or misrepresentation. Indeed, the disclosure form will insulate you from this sort of liability, which could otherwise cause legal fees and headaches long after you wish that you could move on.