Andrew Wetzel's Musings

March 22, 2019

The Seller’s Property Disclosure and Lead-Based Paint Hazards Forms: An Overview

Filed under: Buying,Ethics,Selling — awetzel @ 4:02 PM

PA state law requires that a seller disclose knownmaterial defects” (as described on page 1 of the form) in writing to a buyer before entering into an agreement of sale.  Sellers should complete the form in a timely manner so that it is available when a buyer wants to make an offer as they need to review it and accept it.  Unavailable or incomplete forms can frustrate a buyer and delay or prevent them from making an offer.

While it is expected and assumed that a seller will make the appropriate disclosures, I have been involved in a number of mediation conferences where a buyer/ new owner had a problem after settlement and questioned whether the seller had been completely honest.  I am told that the form remains valid after settlement to some extent until the property is sold again.  The passage of time and what the new owner does to their house will impact that but it is an important legal document and should be treated as such.

An agent cannot complete the form but they should review it before making it available to other agents and their buyers.  I review them to make sure that they are completely filled out but I do not know enough about a client’s house to know whether the answers are correct unless I see something obvious.

Generally speaking, for those who are required to complete the form (see page 1 of the form), there are very few questions that do not require an answer within the check boxes.  I strongly encourage my clients to use as many check boxes as they can to minimize unchecked lines.  Here are some specific thoughts:

1) initial and date the lower left corner on the appropriate pages and sign and date the last page;

2) read an entire section/ paragraph before answering any individual questions;

3) answer based on “first-hand” knowledge (what you know), not based on what someone told you.  Even if the property is an estate or “flip”, most sellers have some knowledge they need to share on the form;

4) explain any “yes” answers.  Be as concise as you can or use an additional page if needed.  Make sure you write legibly in case there is an issue later;

5) answer all of the questions even if “unk” or “N/A” is the answer.  Please do NOT skip questions or sections that do not seem to apply or jump ahead;

6) in the paragraph “Other Equipment and Appliances”, only check items that will remain in the property NOT those that will be “negotiable”.  I suggest that sellers circle the words “will, or may,” to minimize issues when negotiating an agreement and to avoid having a buyer assume you will be leaving something for them at no cost only to find it gone later.  Unless requested in a formal offer, items are excluded;

6) due to the sheer size of the document, I encourage sellers to do it in steps.  If you can do the whole document in one sitting that is great but it has to be done properly.  I suggest using pencil in case you make a mistake.  Crossing answers out or using “white out” may raise questions later;

7) sellers are expected to update the form if anything changes.  We have an addendum for that purpose;

8) please let me know if you have any questions or need another page/ form.  I do not know your house but may be able to explain something that is helpful.

This is not intended as legal advice or meant to scare you but the form is very important.

As far as the “Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazards Disclosure Form”, here are a couple of thoughts:

1) this is a federally-required form;

2) do NOT assume that your house had lead-based paint solely based on its age;

3) two paragraphs require initials (line 12 or 13 and line 18 or 19); sign and date at the bottom.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations!

Remember:  HIRE WISELY!  We are not all the same!

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