Can my son back out of an offer to purchase?

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Can my son back out of an offer to purchase?

My son made an offer to purchase 35 acres of hunting property. This week end he did a search on deer hunting and found that 2 deer tested positive for chronic wasting disease. He now no longer wishes to purchase. The agent never mentioned this issue to him and it was very published in the area news and special DNR meetings for the public input.

Asked on December 10, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If the issue was "published in the area news" and there were "special DNR meetings for the public input," then your son can most likely not use this as a basis to get out of (void) the purchase agreement. The law puts an obligation on sellers (not on the realtors or agents; on the sellers directly) to disclose "latent," or not publically known or readily discrenable, "material," or important, issues affecting the property. If something is publically known, and/or if it affects the area more generally (and is not unique to this property), then the seller does not have an obligation to disclose it: the buyer is expected to be able to ascertain this issue on his own. And also: a seller is only responsible for issues unique to his property, not for ones affecting the wider area.
In a residential real estate context, for example, the seller does not need to disclose crime statistics: they are available in the news or from public sources, and affect the whole neighborhood. In a commercial real estate context, a seller does not need to disclose zoning: the buyer can get that from the town/city and it again also affects more than one property.
In this case, the deer disease was, you indicate, publically known or knowable: in the area news; public meetings been held for it. That would make it not the seller's obligation or responsibility to disclose. I will also assume--but as I am not a hunter, I may be wrong about this--that the disease affects deer not just on these 35 acres, but in the area more generally.
If the seller did not have a obligation or duty to disclose, then the failure to disclose was not fraud and does not void, or allow your son to get out of, the agreement to purchase.


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