What is a seller’s responsibility to repair damage if they lied about the need to do so prior to closing?

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What is a seller’s responsibility to repair damage if they lied about the need to do so prior to closing?

We bought a house 8 months ago. During the inspection, the inspector found that there was a water leak spot in the garage ceiling. We asked the seller to repair the leak. The seller’s response was that the leak was not currently active and no repair was needed. During the summer there was no problem. However, when snow was on our roof, it leaked in the same spot that has water damage. We hired a roof contractor and he said that the leak will only be active during the winter time. The total repair cost will be $550. Since the seller lied to us, are they liable?

Asked on February 19, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

IF the seller knowingly lied, then the seller may indeed be liable for the cost of the repair. However, being incorrect is not knowingly lying; if the seller believed that the leak was not active and not an issue, then there is no liability for what he said. It is the knowledge of the falsity and the intent to lie which makes it fraud and gives you grounds for recovery.

You could try to sue in small claims court; however, even there, if the repaid cost is only $550, it's marginal given the time involved, the small filing fees, and the fact that winning is never guaranteed. It would certainly not be worth engaging an attorney for that amount. This may be a case where the best course is simply to eat the cost to repair it.


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