Can I sue a builder for telling me the house I built was in one school districtwhen it is really located in another district?

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Can I sue a builder for telling me the house I built was in one school districtwhen it is really located in another district?

I have 5 children attending a particular school district and because the builder assured me that the lot we chose was in this same district we built a $400,000 home on said lot. It turns out the builder did not use the correct district boundary maps and we found out an hour before closing (we haven’t closed yet) our house is in a different district and our children will have to change schools. They are totally devastated and this has caused severe emotional distress to our family.

Asked on May 24, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You should, given how much is at stake, consult with an attorney, who can evaluate the specifics of your case in detail to advise you as to what to do. As to general guidelines:

If the school district is listed or incorporated into the actual contract of sale, you  may be able to recover from the builder for breach of contract. You will not be able to recover for emotional distress, but may be able to get out of the contract (make them refund your money and take the home back) or obtain other compensation. Or in this case, it may give you grounds to legally simply not close.

However, if the school district is not part of the contract, which is probably more likely the case, you will have a more difficult time. In that instance, you could likely only recover if you can show fraud--that material misrepresenations were made which induced you to buy the home. The problem there is (1) you typically have to show more than just negligence or mistake--you have to show an intentional or knowing misrepresention AND 2) that it was reasonable for you to rely on that represenation. (2) can be  real problem, since you can--and a court would probably find, should have--verified the district yourself; given how important this is, it's not reasonable to simply rely on the builder's representation.


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