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What is a latent defect, and how can it hurt home buyers?

You are frequently warned to be wary of deceptive practices and dishonest sellers when buying a home. Yet it seems as though Pennsylvania real estate law regarding disclosure would provide adequate protections from sellers trying to sell you a home riddled with material defects, which can cause significant danger to occupants. But what about disclosure of latent defects? What are latent defects, and how can they hurt you as a buyer?

A latent defect is, per Pennsylvania residential real estate transfer law, hidden defects that cannot be identified during a reasonably thorough home inspection without consulting an expert in particular matters. An example of one such defect might be corrosion inside buried pipes without an apparent leak or seepage to point to the damage, or pooling water hidden underneath floorboards. It is possible for a seller to sell you a property with no knowledge of this latent damage.

So how can this hurt you as a buyer? If the defect causes material damage to your property or person after buying, you are likely liable for the cost of repair. If the seller had no prior knowledge of the defect or believed it had been reasonably corrected before sale, Pennsylvania law does not hold them accountable save for in very specific circumstances. You may require consultation with an expert to determine if the defect was truly impossible to detect.

This has been an informational blog post provided for reference purposes, and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice.

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