Cases involving hidden defects often come up before the courts. If you’re thinking about buying a home, keep your eyes wide open! Buyers usually think of inspecting things like the roof or the foundation. But some defects may be hidden in… strange places!
What is a hidden defect?
A defect is a major problem that affects the quality of a building and prevents the owner from enjoying it fully, or from using it normally.
In other words, the problem must be so serious that a buyer who knew about it would not have bought the home or would not have agreed to pay so much.
A “hidden” defect is one that
- is not apparent (can’t be found through a simple inspection by a non-expert),
- was unknown to the buyer and
- was there at the time of purchase.
Sellers are responsible for hidden defects even if they didn’t know about them at the time of sale.
The summer after buying their new house, the buyers discovered a beehive in a wall. The hive may have had 25,000 bees! The inspector said he’d never seen such a large hive in 18 years.
The judge decided it was a hidden defect: the hive must have been there when the house was sold, because a hive that size couldn’t have grown in just one summer. It would have taken three or four years.
A few days before signing sale documents at the notary, the seller discovered that the space under the house was being used as a litter box for cats. It was an enormous litter box -364 square feet – and had been used by cats for several years.
This was a hidden defect. It had a serious impact on the use of this part of the house and major work was needed to prevent it from becoming a health hazard.
The seller had mentioned this discovery to the buyers a few days before the sale. But this did not change things. The judge decided that the buyers were not aware of the seriousness of the problem.
Some recent home buyers were preparing for supper on their patio. They noticed that many bats were flying just overhead. Several dozen bats had nested in the chimney of the summer kitchen of the century-old home!
The sellers knew about the bats but had not mentioned them to the buyers. The sellers explained that the bats did not bother them. In fact, they considered the bats to be “interesting”, because one of the sellers was a biologist.
The judge decided that the bats were a hidden defect. Since the sellers were aware of the situation, the judge also ordered them to pay $5,000 to the buyers, who could not enjoy their patio due to the bats.
The buyers discovered that the land of the house they just bought was full of garbage. It had been used to dump and burn trash in the past. Glass, ceramic, porcelain, plastics, bricks, wood and medical garbage all rose to the surface when the land froze and thawed.
The judge decided that the situation was a real danger: people could be injured just walking in the yard. It was therefore a hidden defect. Indeed, the situation was so serious that the judge cancelled the sale.
The buyers fell in love with a riverside house for sale. They asked questions about how close it was to the river. To give a false sense of security, the sellers gave incomplete information about how often they had been flooded over the years.
Indeed, the sellers did not mention that the house had been flooded many times each year for the past seven years.
The judge was convinced that the buyers would never have purchased the house had they known this and cancelled the sale.