There are many federal and state real estate laws that homeowners and home buyers need to follow. While it is best to consult with a lawyer when you have real estate law questions, here are three real estate laws that you should be aware of.
During the buying process, sellers are required by law to disclose all past known problems with the property. As a seller, you will fill out comprehensive questionnaire that covers the condition of everything from the home’s foundation to roof and appliances. If you fail to disclose a known issue with your property, the buyer can sue you for up to tens after the sale of the home, using the disclosure checklist as evidence.
For instance, if you have water stains on your ceiling or walls from a leaky pipe and paint over this area before selling and do not disclose the leaky pipe, the buyers could bring legal action against you even years later.
As a buyer, you are permitted to ask the seller’s agent questions about the disclosure document. For instance, if a seller discloses a leaky pipe, you can ask where the leaky pipe is located and how long this has been a known problem.
Disclosure questionnaires vary by state – Colorado’s list of disclosure’s can be found here.
2. Clear Titles and Paper Roads
Before closing on the home, your mortgage company will often require you to purchase title insurance. This insurance covers any issue that may arise due to easements on the home or outstanding liens.
Easements are agreements that allow a company to use part of the property which could negatively impact the property. For instance, a telephone company could have the right to run wires through your property.
Liens are legal claims on the home by someone other than the property owner. For instance, if the owners had their kitchen renovated or roof replaced but failed to pay the contractor, the contractor could place a lien on the home for that amount.
You or your mortgage company can also do a preliminary title check to see if there are any easement or lien issues that may arise.
A separate, but similar issue is paper roads. These are roads that the city or town have blueprints for, but have not or did not develop the road. These can be problematic if a property is located on the paper road, because mortgage lenders will typically not approve a mortgage for a property on a paper road or require a the paper road to be “closed” before mortgage approval.
3. Zoning Laws
Zoning laws exist to protect the health, safety, and welfare of a community. Most states, counties, cities, and town have their own set of zoning laws and it is the responsibility of the homeowner and any contractors to follow these laws – the laws for Denver can be found here.
Most zoning laws dictate how a neighborhood or piece of property can be used. For example, if a neighborhood is zoned as “residential”, a business cannot come into that neighborhood and build a store (or office).
It is important to know if your home or a home you are looking to buy is in violation of any zoning laws, because it may be difficult to get approved for mortgage. However, older homes may be “grandfathered in” and zoning laws may not apply them, check with the local registry of deeds to see if a property does not need to adhere to zoning laws.