In most states and home-selling process, the seller needs to complete a statement of property condition. It’s a required document for sellers to fill out to aid the broker in fulfilling the real estate condition. The disclosure is a seller’s responsibility to disclose “any fact, the disclosure of which may have influenced the prospective buyer not to enter into the transaction.” However, as a buyer, if you don’t ask specific questions right before the contract, the accountability falls back on you. So, it’s wise to do property inspections when you want to buy a home.
Also, it’s important to note that disclosure laws vary greatly from state to state. That’s why it’s crucial to research and evaluate your state laws about property disclosure before signing any contract. The Massachusetts law requires that the seller comply with the statement of property condition, and to notify the buyer of lead-based paint hazards and the existence of septic or other private waste disposal system in the property. Under the Massachusetts Lead Paint Statute (Section 197a) and Title 5 of the Massachusetts Environmental Code, the two latter ones are vital info that must be highly disclosed to the new owner.
If you are selling a property in Massachusetts, 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
- Septic System Presence on the Property
- Statement of Property Condition
Did you know Houzeo’s Gold Plan provides relevant Federal and State Seller Disclosures?
Federal Disclosure of Information on Lead-Based Paint and/or Lead-Based Paint Hazards
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 before 1978.
Massachusetts homeowners with the house built before 1978 are required to make a lead-paint disclosure. It’s a kind of certification that lets the new owners know about the hazard effects of lead paint. Furthermore, sellers are required to disclose any known lead-paint issues, or about the use of lead paint on their house. Sellers also need to comply with the Property Transfer Lead Paint Notification prior to the purchase agreement. Failure to do so can be subject to civil penalties (both civil and criminal penalties) under the Massachusetts law. And could pay up a penalty of up to $1,000 and other fee damages to the buyer.
The seller may offer a 10-day period for the buyer to complete a paint inspection or risk assessment for lead-based paint or lead-based hazards. You can get a lead hazard inspection firm through here.
Septic System on the Property
Under Title 5 of the Massachusetts State Environmental Code, the seller must disclose any known septic tank or waste disposal system on the property. The seller has the obligation to inspect the system within two years of a property being sold to the buyer. In circumstances due to weather conditions (or due to frozen ground problems), the inspection can be moved forward and done inside six months of the home sale.
A “currently approved system inspector” must perform the septic system assessment in due diligence. After the assessment, the results must be given to the local board of health and shared with the prospective buyer. The Title 5 Certificate will help reveal if the septic system either passed, conditionally failed, or failed. Although the law only requires you to divulge the presence of a septic system on the property, these inspection requirements should be also disclosed as well for compliance.
To make sure the septic tank system couldn’t cause major issues, it’s advisable to have a Title 5 major inspection prior to advertising your home on the market. Though the cost of repairs can be discouraging, failed systems may void the sale if not taken action beforehand. So, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Statement of Property Condition
The state of Massachusetts is a caveat emptor (Let the Buyer Beware) state, which means disclosing info about your property entirely depends on the buyer to ask questions about any issues, or do a home inspection to look for structural defects and such. The seller should fill out a Statement of Property Condition which will completely disclose any known defects or condition of the premises. It’s a form that identifies problems or issues on the property that would affect the buyer’s decision to process in the transaction.
In Massachusetts, only the case when the seller gets sued or at fault if he/she intentionally lied on disclosing a serious defect. In such cases, the buyer should ask the seller certain questions to avoid future encumbrances about the property. Or better yet, the buyer can perform a property inspection by a licensed home inspector.
However, if defects come up at the home inspection that you aren’t fully aware of, you are not held responsible for a repair. That’s why, the buyer should ask the seller to notify whatever’s known minor or major issues in the property such as mold, pest, water damage, ceiling defects, radon, or flooding. In other words, buyers should ask sellers to comply and testify, to the best of their knowledge, that the sold property doesn’t contain any hazardous materials or structural defects.
Here is the following information that a seller should disclose as part of Massachusetts’ Seller Disclosure requirements.
- Underground Fuel Tank
- Heating System
- Domestic Hot Water
- Sewage System
- Plumbing System
- Drinking-Water Source
- Electrical System
- Security System
- Air Conditioning
- Building/ Structural Improvements Information – This includes any known defects on the foundation, basement, roof, chimney, floors, walls, windows, insulation, asbestos, radon, pool, garage, and insects.
- Legal Claim Against Your Property.
These are the following clauses for explanatory material. You can consult the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, or another agency or your attorney.
A. Floor Hazard Insurance Disclosure Clause
B. Hazardous Materials Disclosure Clause
C. Asbestos Disclosure Clause
D. Lead Paint Disclosure Clause
E. Radon Disclosure Clause
F. Chlordane Disclosure Clause
G. Mold Information
H. Fair Housing Notice
What if the seller fails to disclose any of this information to the buyer?
In cases when the buyer gets a home inspection and finds out major issues, you did not fully disclose. This could result in legal action—and may void the offer or offer under their home inspection contingency. This can also mean that the seller should be held responsible for the actual damages sustained, and to the termination of the purchase and sale contract.
However, there are certain topics and issues the owner is not obligated to disclose unless if the buyer doesn’t ask about it. Specific information like homicide and suicide. Or about prior residents that were “afflicted with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or other diseases which has been determined by medical evidence to be highly unlikely to be transmitted through the occupancy of a dwelling place.” All of these issues are acknowledged as non-relevant and could be left untold.
Did you know Houzeo’s Gold Plan provides relevant Federal and State Seller Disclosures?
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Seller Disclosure Requirements in Massachusetts FAQs
Massachusetts is a “caveat emptor” state, which means the sellers are not legally required to divulge facts about the property’s condition. To determine property defects, the buyer has the responsibility to check the house quality through hiring a home inspector—or ask the seller with specific questions. However, the seller still has the responsibility to comply with the disclosure of any known facts at his/her best knowledge. More importantly, hazards regarding lead-based paint and the existence of the septic system in the property.
There are three major requirements in selling a property in Massachusetts. 1. The Federal Disclosure of Information on Lead-Based Paint and/or Lead-Based Paint Hazards – houses built before 1978 are required to complete a lead-paint disclosure; 2. Septic System on the Property – any known waste disposal system on the perimeter should be disclosed and the seller should hire an inspector for septic system assessment; 3. Statement of the Property Condition – material defects and other details about the property’s condition.
Note that disclosure law varies greatly from state to state. The sellers are only required to disclose known defects. The typical information sellers must disclose in Massachusetts includes the Security System, Heating System, Plumbing System, Sewage System, Electrical System, Air Conditioning, Structural Defects, Legal Claim Against Your Property. And Disclosure Clauses on Floor Hazard Insurance, Hazardous Material, Lead Paint, Radon, Chlordane, Mold, and Fair Housing Notice.
Since Massachusetts home seller has no legal duty to disclose—serious or minimal— defects about the property lest for lead-paint hazards and septic systems, it’s preferable to hire a home inspector licensed by the state Board of Registration of Home Inspectors. Although it’s not required, it’s advisable and can help you avoid encounter encumbrances in the near future.
Home sellers who intentionally did not fully disclose major issues about the property could result in legal action. That means a termination of the purchase and sale contract. The buyer can sue against the seller for obfuscating home defects and lying, or based on breach of contract. Although buyers aren’t held responsible for new defects, or issues like HIV, suicide, homicide, and other supernatural phenomena.
Under Title V of the Massachusetts State Environmental Code, you must disclose any existing septic tank or waste disposal system on the property. A “currently approved system inspector” should perform the assessment and share the findings with the local board of health and the buyer. In cases of weather issues, the Title V inspection can be completed within six months of the home sale.
Home inspectors usually test the interior and exterior of your valued property. They’ll gather details and test your plumbing system, heat, and electrical system, problems with structure foundation, ceiling, windows, and water system. After the inspection, they’ll give some advice and opinion on how to do necessary repairs and improvements for the property.
Ideally, both parties—the buyer and seller—have to pay for their home inspection. But typically, the buyer should cover the fee for the home inspection to evaluate the condition of the property. But to market the home properly, home sellers should get a Pest Control Report and home inspection to accrue serious buyers.
In Massachusetts, a realtor is not obligated to disclose these kinds of facts on a property that is about to be sold. Unless the buyer asks for it specifically, issues such as an occupant have been infected with HIV or other diseases, events like suicide or homicide, and other psychological and supernatural phenomena could be left untold—and considered as irrelevant for real estate transaction.