Most states have clear legislation requiring home sellers to give a written disclosure report to potential buyers. This report typically identifies any physical defects in the property, from a defective garage door to a leak in the cellar. Wyoming, however, has no such law. What does this mean for you if you want to sell residential property in Wyoming?
If you use a real estate agent, your agent might need to make certain disclosures to the home buyer. And there could be some good reasons for you to give the buyer a full disclosure report anyway, notwithstanding the lack of legislation requiring you to do so. We'll explore these issues here.
Wyoming has no law that requires you to give a formal disclosure statement to a potential buyer of your house. To the contrary, Wyoming's courts enforce caveat emptor clauses in purchase contracts.
Under the doctrine of caveat emptor ("let the buyer beware"), judges ordinarily refuse to compensate buyers for home defects found after the purchase unless the seller did something to actively prevent the buyer from inspecting the property to find all of the defects. The burden for pre-purchase investigations fall on the buyer, rather than the seller.
If your home was built before 1978, you need to know about the federal Residential Lead Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act (42 U.S. Code § 4852d), commonly referred to as Title X. It will require you to advise buyers of the risks of lead poisoning in housing, such as lead-based paint or lead pipes.
See for details, Seller Responsibility to Disclose Lead-Based Paint Hazards.
Despite the caveat emptor doctrine, Wyoming does have some regulations around real estate sales. These come into play largely when you use a licensed real estate agent. Under Wyoming Code 33-28-303, the agent must "disclose to any prospective buyer all adverse material facts actually known by" the agent.
What are adverse material facts? They may pertain to the title and physical condition of the property and any environmental hazards affecting it. Further, the agent must not "perpetuate a material misrepresentation of the seller" which the agents knows or should know is false.
In other words, a licensed Wyoming real estate agent has a legal obligation not to lie to a buyer. If the agent knows that the water pump is busted, for example, whether because you mentioned it or because the agent figured it out by personal observation, the agent cannot tell the buyer that it's in good working order. The agent also cannot repeat any lies that you might have told.
If a buyer gets burned by a real estate agent's failure to disclose a material fact about the property, the agent could be punished by the Wyoming Real Estate Commission, potentially by having his or her license suspended or revoked. This is a steep price to pay.
Fortunately, nothing in the statute requires the agent to perform a complete floor-to-ceiling investigation of your home before approaching buyers, nor does it require the agent (or you) to hire a professional inspector to find potential physical defects. That said, the buyer will likely want to hire a professional home inspector for this purpose, but neither you nor your real estate agent need to bear that cost.
Although your state doesn't force you to reveal damaging defects about your property, there are long-term benefits and protections associated with doing so. As a result, many Wyoming sellers proactively make property disclosures.
Your agent can supply you with a standard form, which will ordinarily ask you to check "Yes," "No," or "Don't Know" in response to a few dozen questions about your property.
These will address issues like whether the home has structural issues such as a crumbling foundation or a roof that leaks; whether the property contains hazardous materials or conditions such as asbestos or radon; and whether defects are found in any systems or appliances. You might also be asked about legal matters, such as whether there are any easements or rights of way on the property. Your answers should give potential buyers a fairly comprehensive snapshot of any known defects with your property.
Why make a written disclosure if the law does not require doing so? First, it sets clear expectations. The buyer will see from the start that you are being open about the condition of the house, and have less reason to react with shock and dismay if a professional inspection report turns up defects.
Second, the disclosure prevents the buyer from later claiming that he or she didn't know about a particularly defect. Imagine that there is a major, ongoing leakage issue in your basement, and you clean it up, sell during a dry summer, and do not say anything to the potential buyer. Even if the sale closes successfully, the buyer will, as soon as the rains come, discover the problem. Any claim that you "didn't know" would be, at best, difficult to believe. The buyer will be angry; not just because you were dishonest by omission, but also because the buyer now has to face the unexpected cost of fixing the leak. This creates a risk that the buyer will sue you for breach of contract or fraud.