A reader asks about the property disclosure requirements for the sale of residential real estate in Maryland.
A Maryland statute requires the seller of single-family residential property to complete and deliver to each purchaser either a written residential property disclosure statement or a written residential property disclaimer statement.
The law applies only to residential real property improved by four or fewer single-family units. The law does not apply to the initial sale of a single-family residence that has never been occupied or for which a certificate of occupancy has been issued within one year before the seller and purchaser entered into a contract. Exemptions also apply to certain residential property transfers between close relatives, through a divorce, foreclosure sale, estate sale and other special transactions.
The Maryland Real Estate Commission publishes property disclosure and property disclaimer forms. A seller is not obliged to disclose anything about the condition of the property. But if a seller chooses to complete a property disclosure, the seller must tell the buyer about property defects that the seller actually knows about.
The property disclosure form covers a range of physical conditions about the property, such as water and sewer systems, insulation, structural systems, plumbing and HVAC systems, insect infestation, land use matters, hazardous materials and other defects known to the seller.
A seller is not required to undertake an independent inspection or verification in completing a property disclosure form but may rely on reports and opinions prepared by a licensed home inspector or other experts.
Before entering into a contract of sale, a seller is required to notify the buyer of the disclosure/disclaimer law.
It is to the buyer's advantage to obtain a written property disclosure because a seller may be liable for errors, inaccuracies or omissions of which he has actual knowledge.