The short answer is, it depends on the nature of the issue or damage you found, the seller’s responsibilities, and terms specified in the agreement of purchase and sale.
I would like to begin by pointing out that Ontario law requires sellers to disclose certain defects of a home.
Essentially, there are two types: patent defects, which are obvious problems with a home that can be easily discovered during the reasonable inspection of a home by the buyer or a home inspector, and latent defects, which are problems that are hidden or not noticeable.
Since patent defects are usually easy to identify, sellers are not required to disclose them. Examples of these are visible cracks in a wall, stains on a ceiling, or missing railings. Sellers are also not required to fix patent defects, unless this is outlined in the terms of your purchase agreement.
Latent defects, on the other hand, are not obvious and may be challenging to uncover – even by a home inspector. They could be more substantive issues, like a major structural problem or mould. If that’s the situation you’re in, be aware that sellers are legally obligated to disclose defects that could make the home dangerous or unlivable, but should get legal counsel about their specific circumstances.
Since the details of real estate transactions vary, as an initial step I would encourage you to get in touch with your real estate agent and inform them of the problem, seek their professional advice and see if the matter can be amicably communicated and resolved with the seller.
I also highly recommend that you speak with a real estate lawyer. Depending on your agent’s and lawyer’s input, you may wish to have the home inspector reassess the property. It may also be wise for you to take photos to document the issue. Depending on the nature of the defect, you may have to engage a specialized inspector to examine the problem in more depth
When purchasing a home in the winter, it is best for buyers to visit the property to try and get the home inspection done on a mild day when there is no snow and ice obstructing the view of the home’s exterior, and to raise any concerns with the seller before the closing day.
If you are someone who is selling a home during the colder months, I also suggest that you speak with your agent and lawyer to fully understand your obligations to maintain the property between the time you accept an offer and the closing date of the transaction. This will generally include things like removing snow from the driveway and sidewalks, maintaining insurance on the property and if it’s going to be vacant, keeping heat on to prevent pipes from bursting due to freezing temperatures.
Whether you are a buyer or a seller, doing your due diligence in advance will help make the real estate transaction smooth and seamless for both sides. All the best.
If you have a question for Jasmine Saberi about the home buying or selling process, please email email@example.com
This column is for general information purposes only and is not meant as legal or professional advice on real estate transactions.
Credits: Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO).