Who is liable for pre-existing damages to a home?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Who is liable for pre-existing damages to a home?

I sold a home and rented back for 4 weeks. Upon moving out I was able to see

that my bed had done some rubbing damage to the laminate floor. The buyers

accepted home inspection and final walk through prior to purchasing. This minor damage was not visible to anyone, including me until the bed was removed. I was upfront and dealt with numerous other issues prior to the sale being finalized, including 4 k for a plumbing issue that appeared the day after

putting the house under contract. I in no way intentionally hid this from the

buyer. Now they want to use my rent back deposit to cover the damage and/or maybe even ask for more. I thought my security deposit was just for damage done in the weeks I rented back. Am I on the hook for this damage and, if so, to what extent?

Asked on June 19, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Technically you are not liable for the floor damage, since--
1) As you correctly point out, the deposit was for damage you did during the rent back period, not prior or pre-existing damage; and
2) You were not aware of the damage, and not being aware, did not commit fraud (fraud is a *knowing* misrepesentation, including by nondisclosure, of damage or other issues).
That said, if they don't agree with the above, they could sue you and force you to defend yourself in court; and even though the law is on your side, there's always a chance the other side will win (judges don't 100% of the time follow the law--sometimes they make mistakes). Depending on how much is at stake, it may be worth it to let them have recourse to your deposit to avoid the time and cost (if you get an attorney; or in missing a day of work) of litigation and the chance of losing despite having the better legal position.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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