What are my rights as a home buyer for something significant not disclosed by the seller?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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What are my rights as a home buyer for something significant not disclosed by the seller?

We recently bought a house and remodeled the house and filed for interior work permits and the city told us that we also need permit for the deck and patio as they were never

permitted. Now we are stuck as the deck and patio are not according to the city

standards and we would need to fix them according to city standards and file for permits. It is really expensive to fix them and to get the permit. When we bought the house the deck and patio were a significant feature in buying. The deck and patio are

significant to the house. Neither the seller nor the listing agent and the buyer agent disclosed to us that that these are not according to city standards and are not permitted. Can you please let me know what are my rights as a buyer for this significant

misrepresentation made by them?

Asked on January 2, 2017 under Real Estate Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

First, you have no recourse against the agents: they rely on, and are legally allowed to rely on, what the seller tells them--they don't have to independently verify facts, such as if all the work, etc. is permitted. So they did nothing wrong.
As to the seller: IF the seller knew about the permitting issue and failed to disclose it, he committed fraud--he misrepresented (lied about) a material (or important) fact. That would entitle you to sue him for compensation, like the costs to do the work properly and get the permit(s). But fraud depends upon a knowing lie: if the seller him/herself did not know, he or she is not liable, since he or she would not have done anything wrong. So if this seller did the work, he or would have known he  or she did not get permits and would be liable. But if the work was done by a prior owner and this seller did not him/herself know of the permitting problem, then he or she did not commit fraud (e.g. did not lie) and would not be liable.

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