Selling a Nebraska Home: What Are My Disclosure Obligations?

What a home seller must, and should, tell buyers in Nebraska about property defects.

Selling your Nebraska home is no easy task. With a difficult housing market, sellers need to be aggressive in marketing their property and preparing it for potential buyers. Still, Nebraska law requires that you make certain disclosures to the buyer before the closing. The purpose of these is to reveal various problems with the property that could affect its value or desirability. If you’re selling your home in the Cornhusker State, what must you disclose to prospective buyers, and when?

Disclosure Laws in Nebraska for Home Sales

Seller disclosures in Nebraska are governed by Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-2,120. That statute provides: “Each seller of residential real property located in Nebraska shall provide the purchaser with a written disclosure statement of the real property’s condition.” The law applies both to outright sales and to leases with an option to purchase. You must give the disclosure to the buyer on or before the effective date of the purchase contract (most likely the date upon which you both signed it).

Both you and the buyer will sign the disclosure form, as proof that it has been given and received. (Obviously, you should retain a copy for your records.)

What Defects Does the Nebraska Disclosure Statement Cover?

The Nebraska statute is very specific about the information that you must disclose to the prospective home buyer.Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-2,120-4 says that the disclosure must include: (a) the condition of all appliances that are included in the sale and whether they are in working condition; (b) the condition of the electrical system; (c) the condition of the heating and cooling systems; (d) the condition of the water system; (e) the condition of the sewer system; (f) the condition of all improvements on the property (such as renovations or expansions); (g) any hazardous conditions, including substances, materials, and products that may be an environmental hazard; (h) any title conditions affecting the property, including easements and zoning restrictions; and (i) the utility connections and whether they are public, private, or community.

The statute put the Nebraska Real Estate Commission in charge of creating the official disclosure form, and the four-page resulting form is available for free online. Remember, per Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-2,120-5, you must complete the form “to the best of [your] belief and knowledge as of the date the disclosure statement.” If any information required by the disclosure statement is unknown to you, you may indicate that fact on the disclosure statement and still be in full compliance with the statute.

Why Should You Be Honest and Open in Making Disclosures?

You simply want to sell your Nebraska house. All of these disclosures may seem to make life more complicated, since they force you to confront some potentially value-diminishing aspects of your property. Why should you be honest in making these disclosures?

First, the statute has a clear incentive not to lie. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-2,120-8 states that if a sale occurs without a proper disclosure, the buyer can sue the seller and recover the actual damages, court costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees. On top of suing over the statutory violation, the purchaser may be able to sue based on other "causes of action," such as breach of contract or fraud. This alone is a major incentive for you to be honest. (Fortunately, the statute includes a statute of limitations, limiting lawsuits to within one year from the date that the buyer takes possession of the property.)

Second, it's a way to make sure the buyer won't balk in the middle of the escrow period after an inspection report turns up "surprises."

And third, the statute protects you from lawsuits over the information that you do disclose. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-2,120-8 provides that you “shall not be liable under this section for any error, inaccuracy, or omission of any information in a disclosure statement if the error, inaccuracy, or omission was not within the personal knowledge of the seller.”

In other words, if a defect existed in your home, but you did actually know about it, then you could not be held liable. Moreover, the statute is clear that your disclosure statement is not any sort of guarantee or warranty to the buyer. Indeed, the statute specifically reminds the buyer that “the statement should not be accepted as a substitute for any inspection or warranty that the purchaser may wish to obtain.”

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