Home sold to us with a damaged septic system. Is seller liable for the cost to replace it?

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Home sold to us with a damaged septic system. Is seller liable for the cost to replace it?

My wife and I purchased a home about 3 weeks ago on an FHA loan. Everything checked out good regarding the inspection and repairs. Except the septic system, which the inspector couldn’t find, as there was a discrepancy between the MLS listing that stated the home is on public sewer, and the property disclosure that the seller said was a septic system. We are first time home buyers, and no one told us we need a seperate septic inspection. Several days ago we had issues with the plumbing backing up into our home. We ordered two seperate septic inspections. Both technicians found that the septic tank was full of dirt inside and in completely non-working condition. They quoted us for a new tank and drain-field at a cost of roughly 6K – 7K. It is a health hazard to have a non-working septic system. Under Florida law, who would be liable?

Asked on August 5, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

It depends on whether the sellers are telling the truth about not knowing about the septic problems. If they did not know--which is plausible, if they purchased it on a tax lien and did not reside there themselves--then they are not liable because they did nothing wrong: they did not lie or fail to disclose a material (i.e. serious or significant) issue of which they had knowledge. After closing, a seller is only liable if they committed fraud, and fraud requires knowledge of the problem, so that in not disclosing it, they intentionally mislead you. In this case, you, as the owners, will have to pay for the repairs.
If you can show that they did know or logically must have known of the problem, however, then in not disclosing it, they may well have committed fraud: fraud would provide a legal basis to sue them to recover any costs that you incur.


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