Selling your house? Disclose all defects or it could or face the consequences later

Property sellers should avoid any legal or financial repercussions by offering full disclosure to buyers. Picture: Tierra Mallorca/Unsplash

Property sellers should avoid any legal or financial repercussions by offering full disclosure to buyers. Picture: Tierra Mallorca/Unsplash

Published May 15, 2024


When you are selling your property your number one priority should be full disclosure of any flaws in the property or there could be serious consequences down the line.

According to Arnold Maritz, Co-Principal of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, since the Property Practitioners Act came into effect in February 2022, it’s become harder for sellers to hide behind the ‘voetstoets’ clause.

This is because property practitioners are now obliged to obtain a ‘disclosure form’ from a seller before concluding a mandate, and to provide it to a purchaser before making an offer.

“Whether it's a leaky roof, faulty wiring, or a boundary line dispute, buyers have the right to know about any defects that could affect the property's value or safety – and sellers should protect themselves against the potential repercussions of non-disclosure,” Maritz said.

Consequences of withholding information

There are can be severe legal and financial repercussions for the failure of disclosing faults and issues.

South African law recognises the principle of ‘caveat venditor’ which means ‘let the seller beware’. This places the responsibility on the seller to disclose all material facts, and failure to do so could lead to legal consequences.

Buyers who discover undisclosed issues after the purchase may have grounds for legal action and can seek remedies such as compensation or even the cancellation of the sale agreement.

Navigating these legal channels can be complex therefore it is crucial that you have a complete understanding of the disclosure process and you should seek legal advice if necessary.

Issues and faults to be disclosed

The seller's disclosure typically covers a range of aspects related to the property.

According to Maritz, these defects can range from structural issues, plumbing and electrical problems, water damage, roof defects, and approval for previous renovations or additions.

“One common example is the disclosure of latent defects. These are defects that are not immediately apparent but can have a significant impact on the property's value or functionality,” Maritz said.

The seller is obligated to disclose such defects, allowing the buyer to make an informed decision based on a comprehensive understanding of the property.“

Doing your due diligence:

While seller disclosure forms are a valuable source of information buyers should not rely solely on the information provided by the seller.

Maritz advises: “Buyers should consider consulting local authorities, municipal planning offices, and community forums to gather additional information about the area.”

IOL Property