Selling a home is tough work. From state statutes to disclosure requirements, you have to get familiar with what you have to do and what needs to prepare. Like any other state, the Washington law requires home sellers to disclose any known major defects that could affect the buyer’s decision to purchase the house. These are major to minor defects—and even features—that the buyer should know before signing any contract.
Remember, you only need to disclose material defects that you have knowledge of and not issues that you aren’t aware of existing. However, if you’re having second thoughts on whether or not an issue is “material”, then it’s just wise to include it in the list for assurance.
If you are selling a property in Washington, here are all the seller disclosure requirements you need to know:
- Federal Disclosure of Information on Lead-Based Paint and/or Lead-Based Paint Hazards
- General Disclosure Requirements
Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction
The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act passed in 1992 requires the disclosure of any lead-based paint or chipped paint in any housing built prior to 1978.
The Lead-based Paint Hazard Reduction Act is an essential part of any real estate disclosure requirements. It provides protection to residential occupants from any possible exposure to lead paint, dust, or lead poisoning. By law, home sellers must notify the buyer whether the property has any reports or records of lead-based paint hazards. You can read more details here on this website.
The seller can provide a 10-day period for the buyer to do a risk assessment or paint inspection for lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards. For safety purposes, the homebuyers may look for a lead hazard inspection firm by following this link.
General Disclosure Requirements
Sellers are required by law to disclose material defects about residential property in the seller disclosure form in Washington state. Completing the form is essential since it tells most about the condition of the property before the purchase is made. As stated in Section 64.06.020 (Revised Washington Code), home sellers should comply with the following disclosures of “existing material facts or material defects to the buyer based on seller’s actual knowledge of the property at the time [the] seller completes the disclosure statement.” In summary, sellers are only required to disclose known defects or issues that they are aware of, and are not expected to notify defects that they didn’t fully know exist.
Your real estate agent will likely provide you with a copy of the disclosure form. In Section 64.06.020 of the Revised Washington Code, you can review the standard disclosure form and check the contents. The form contains the crucial information of property issues you have to explain and disclose. You are given within five days to deliver a completed copy of your disclosure form.
In addition, as a seller, you have no responsibility to examine or investigate certain issues like the presence of registered sex offenders near your residential property. Information regarding registered sex offenders may be obtained from local law enforcement agencies. This notice is intended only to inform you of where to obtain this information and is not an indication of the presence of registered sex offenders (Revised Washington Code Sect. 64.06.02). Henceforth, it’s the sole responsibility of the buyers to investigate on their own, or can look up to the website of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.
However, the seller doesn’t have to report every issue about the property. For example, it’s unnecessary to notify the buyer about someone that has suffered from AIDS or any infectious disease. Furthermore, facts about suicide, natural death, or paranormal activity are not necessarily included in the disclosure form.
As a seller and as the only source of all the information in this form, here are disclosure requirements you are obliged to state:
Property Title. These are title issues that include boundary disputes, assessments, zoning issues, covenants, easements, etc.
Water System. Major or minor problems on household water, irrigation, outdoor sprinkler systems, and water rights issues
Sewer/Septic Systems. Maintenance issues or significant issues in the public sewer system, connections, septic tanks, plumbing, drain fields. Changes or repairs to the on-site sewage system.
Structural Issues. These are structural foundation problems, roof leaks, basement flood, dry rot or pests or attic insulation. And other defects on chimneys, pools, sidewalks, garage floors, exterior walls, driveways, patio, fireplaces, elevators, sidings, hot tub, slab floors, etc.
Systems and Fixtures. Property condition of the plumbing (including pipes, faucets, fixtures, and toilets), heating and cooling, electrical, security systems or satellite dishes.
Homeowners Association/Common Interest. Details about Association and contact information, regular periodic assessment, pending special assessment, any shared common areas like walls, fences, landscaping, pools, tennis, courts, walkways, or other areas.
General. Is the area on a landfill? Drainage problems, natural disasters damages, environmental hazards, i.e., drug-manufacturing, buried fuel tanks, lead-paint, or radio towers.
Manufactured/Mobile homes. Any improvements or alterations? Or permits or variances received?
Here is the list of items that are excluded to disclosure requirements in Washington (RCW 64.06.010).
- Inter-family gifts (transfer from parent to child or spouse)
- Divorcing spouses or domestic partners
- Most inter-owner buyouts (via partnership, corporation, lease-holder, or in a tax-deferred exchange)
- Real property interest that is less than fee simple
- A personal representative for the estate of a decedent
- When the buyer waives receipt of the seller disclosure
- “even though Washington law allows the buyer to waive receipt of the disclosure form”
- “if the answer to any question on the “Environmental” section of the disclosure form would be “Yes,” then the buyer cannot waive receipt of the disclosures”
- “Obviously, for a buyer to not waive receipt of the disclosure requires the seller to create one in the first place.”
What if the seller fails to disclose any of this information to the buyer?
The main purpose of the disclosure is to notify the buyer of all the information about the property’s condition. If the seller intentionally hides the property defects, this could lead to legal trouble (for fraud or negligent misrepresentation)—and worst, void the sale agreement. That’s why it’s crucial to review the form or consult your agent for any questions regarding the property.
Follow the procedures and abide by the law even though the disclosure can seem so stressful. Just fill out the form honestly to your best knowledge. Litigation is a costly procedure and could waste a huge amount of your money. You can always seek advice to a professional real estate agent and attorney to get an in-depth understanding of the requirements and process to sell your property.
Note: All the information mentioned above is just a guide for real estate sellers in Washington. It is still best to seek legal advice from experts if you have any clarifications.
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