Can I sue a seller that lives in another state NC? House is in CT, seller attorney in CT.

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I sue a seller that lives in another state NC? House is in CT, seller attorney in CT.

Apartment condo for sale by Owner in CT. Previous heat pump problems no ac or heat with owner’s tenant for years. Owner was informed that there was a leak, it could not be fixed needed a new system she placed apt in the market and didn’t disclose problems in the real estate disclosure form- fraud. New Link Destination
pass the inspection she added Freon in the machine latent defect and the unit stopped working after she signed the contract before closing. She added more Freon and didn’t disclosed – Breach of contract. Ac stopped working 1 week after I moved. I have several witness and concrete evidence that she knew the problem with the heat pump. Since the apartment was for sale by owner, she mislead potential buyers that apartment was is good condition when it had a broken heat/AC when she advertised the property online. She’s been living in NC since 2013, but she used an attorney in CT for the closing. Can I reverse the sale of the house based on these reasons? Should I use small claims when owner lives in another state or civil court?

Asked on September 15, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Connecticut


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You can certainly sue for compensation--such as the cost of a new A/C system--based on fraud: fraud is the knowing misrepresensation of a material or important fact, made to convince you to engage in a transaction, and upon which you reasonably relied in entering into that transaction. Based on what you write, the seller had knowledge of the true facts and lied about them to get someone (you) to buy the home; that would provide a basis for seeking compensation.
You *may* be able to rescind ("reverse," as you put it) the sale, but it is not a given: while fraud does provide a basis for rescission, courts look at the entirety of the circumstances in deciding whether to do so or not. They would look, for example, at how expensive a new system is compared to the home--does a defective system costing, say, $2,500 justify rescinding a $300,000 purchase, for example? (Do you undo a major purchased based on something costing less than 1% of the transaction?) They would look at how long you have been in the home--the longer, the less likely to rescind, since you have been getting value out of living there, and also having been putting wear and tear on the home, so the seller would not be getting it back in "as was" condition (rescision restores *both* parties to the condition they were in pre-transaction). So you can ask for rescission, but getting rescision is not as likely or clear as getting monetary compensation.
You can't sue for rescission (undoing the sale) in small claims court: small claims court lacks that power. If you want to sue for rescision either instead of compensation or as an alternative to compensation (you can bring a lawsuit seeking relief in the alternative: i.e. "give me A or if you won't, give me B"), you'd have to sue in regular country court. You might be able to sue in your local court, since the property they sold was located in your county; that may well give you local county court jurisdication. 
If you only wanted to seek compensation and wanted to sue in small claims court, you'd have to sue where the defendant lives; small claims courts only have power over defendants located within their geographic area.

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