If a seller breaches a contract, what damages can the buyer seek?

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If a seller breaches a contract, what damages can the buyer seek?

In the process of purchasing a home, I discovered that the seller did not legally permit renovations that were made to the property. When I requested that the contract be adhered to and the proper permits be obtained before closing, the seller refused and stated that they intended to break the contract. Can I force the seller to preform the contract and, if not, what damages can I seek in civil suit?

Asked on February 7, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You should speak with an attorney to discuss your options, but you may well have recourse.

1) While courts usually prefer to award monetary damages (compensation), rather than force a party to perform a contract (which is called granting "specific performance"), the exception is real estate contracts: because real estate is viewed as unique to a great extent (i.e. one house is not quite like another), courts are more willing to force a seller to go through with the deal. Thus, you may be able to enforce the contract and get the house.

2) Even if you can't get specific performance, you may be entitled to monetary compensation, such as a recovery of all costs (inspection, lawyer, loan application or origination, etc.) incurred to date and a return of your deposit; if you have incurred other costs or consequences from this deal (e.g. put your own home up for sale), you may be entitled to additional compensation, too.


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