Who is responsible for major repairs to the home I purchased 4 months ago?
The answer will depend on the contracts involved, such as whether any warranties, misrepresentations, or disclosures were made. Disclosure of hazardous or defective conditions on real estate is regulated by state law. The law usually requires that potential buyers be told all material facts about the condition of a property for sale. That disclosure has included whether the property is within earthquake fault zones, seismic hazard zones or wildland fire areas, in which fire protection falls under the jurisdiction of the state, a flood hazard area as designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or a dam inundation area. Defects listed on a disclosure form may also include appliances, electrical system, water and sewer system, roofing, structural and foundation problems, moisture, and others. Latent defects are problems with the property that the buyer or buyer’s agent is not able to discover through a normal inspection. It is a hidden or dormant defect in a premise that cannot be discovered by observation or a reasonably careful inspection. Some states interpret latent defects to mean structural items (including foundational problems) and safety items. The disclosure laws typically require material or important defects to be disclosed. Disclosure of environmental risks, particularly the ones that pose health hazards, may also be information that must be disclosed. A leaking underground oil tank or the presence of a nearby nuclear power plant for example must be disclosed to the buyer.
When one party to a contract knows of a fact that has a bearing on the transaction, the failure to disclose this information to the other party is called nondisclosure. Generally, the law does not attach any significance to nondisclosure. The theory is that it is preferable that the party lacking the knowledge ask questions of the party with the knowledge rather than imposing some sort of duty on the party with the knowledge to volunteer the information. Thus, generally, an agreement of the parties is not affected by the fact that one party did not disclose information to the other party. This is the general rule. Ordinarily there is no duty on a party to a contract to volunteer information to the other party. The nondisclosure of information that is not asked for by a party does not hurt the validity of the contract. For example, generally, a seller would be under no duty to disclose foundation problems to a buyer who purchases a home and later discovers severe foundation problems, if the buyer, prior to signing the contract, made an inspection of the house and assumed several visible cracks in the roof and walls were the result of the house settling, and the seller did not originally make a disclosure one way or another.
The relationship between a buyer and seller of real estate is created by contract, and the terms of the contract generally determine the rights of the buyer and seller. You should carefully review the terms of your real estate contract to determine your rights and obligations regarding defects in the property. The answer to your question may depend on whether the seller provided a disclosure from to you and if so, whether it contained required information. If the seller failed to disclose any known material defects in the house, you may have recourse against him or her. Also important is whether you elected to have a home inspection performed and whether that inspection should have revealed any problems. I suggest you contact a local attorney who can review all the facts and documents involved.