Is there a statute of limitations on suing for lack of disclosure regarding leaking decks on a home?

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Is there a statute of limitations on suing for lack of disclosure regarding leaking decks on a home?

We bought a home 5 years and 5 months ago. The seller did not tell us that the second story decks leak into the living quarters on the first floor. She lied and said that if “we did not clean the gutters there might be a leak into one of the bedrooms”. The house started to leak the first year. The second year we ripped open the ceiling and found a cake pan in the attic area used to capture leaking water. We have had 2 different contractors try to repair leaks. It is their opinion that the leaking has been going on for many, many years. Can we still sue?

Asked on November 30, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

It is probably. though not definitely, too late at this point. This case would be based in fraud--for a material misrepresentation or nondisclosure--and the statute of limitations for fraud is only 3 years. Sometimes it is possibly to "toll," or delay the running of the running statute, for a period of time when the would-be plaintiff did not know and reasonably should not have known of the fraud; in this case, if the first opportunity to learn of the misrepresentation or nondisclosure as to the leak was when you ripped down the ceiling in the second year, and if that would be recent enough to get you in under the 3 year statute, it may be possible to sue. (If you discovered the cake pan more than 3 years ago, it would almost certainly be too late.) Note that if the seller did not misrepresent--e..g they honestly believed what they told you and did not themselves put that catch basin in (put in a by a previous owner), there would be no fraud.


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