Real-Estate Disclosure: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

real estate disclosure

When a bulldozer began to to clear away dirt for an in-ground pool in Brian Dyer's back yard, the Lakeland, Fla., homeowner got the surprise of his life: mountains of trash emerged from the hole. "It's just a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach to see what they're bringing up with each scoop," he told Tampa Bay's 10News.

Dyer said that contractors tried to dig into three different areas in the backyard and each time, came up with more trash. "We found several tires, what appears to be washing machine tubs, trash, debris, metal parts, we found a lawnmower in the deep hole over there," he said, pointing to an 11-foot-deep hole. "You name it, it seems to be coming up out of the hole."

Dyer has no idea how much more trash is under his property, how far it goes--or, even worse, if it's under his house.

"We're very fearful at this point," he told 10News.

It's anybody's guess as to whether anyone but the person who dumped the stuff illegally knew it was there. Builders dug down the required 12 inches for the foundation when the house was built in 2006. The debris was hidden three feet deep.

Nobody knows who's responsible for cleaning up the mess, either. While Dyer is trying to figure out his recourse, he's abandoned his plans for an in-ground pool and is opting for an above-ground instead.

Dyer's plight reminds us a little of the snake house in rural Idaho, also in the news this week. In that case, homeowners bought their dream house, only to discover it was infested with thousands of garter snakes. Former owner Ben Sessions recalls killing 42 of them in a single day and resorted to making "snake sweeps" before his wife and young sons got out of bed in the morning. After battling the reptiles unsuccessfully for months, the family finally fled. They later filed for bankruptcy, and the bank foreclosed on the property.

If "location, location, location" is the most important thing about real estate, "disclosure, disclosure, disclosure" runs a close second. Sellers are required to disclose "material facts" about their home that might influence your decision to buy -- the roof that leaks, problems with the septic system in heavy rains, the fact that the guy next door keeps bees who sometimes mistake your porch for his. (The only exception to this is if you're buying a bank-owned property; in foreclosure sales, the bank isn't required to tell you anything.)

Of course, disclosure couldn't help Dyer, since his wife bought the house when it was new construction, and the builder denied any knowledge of the trash dump. But Sessions learned his lesson the hard way. According to reports, when he bought the house, the snake infestation had been documented. But Sessions -- believing it was just a story concocted by the previous owner to walk away from the mortgage -- signed the disclosure document anyway. So when the story turned out to be true, he had no legal recourse.

All of which underscores the importance, as a buyer, of doing your due diligence and investigating every disclosure your seller is required to make. And as a seller, it's equally important to be up front about your home's flaws -- even the ones you have paid to correct.

Most states require disclosure of deaths, as well, and not just the ones from unnatural causes. If a natural death occurred in the house within the past three years, it needs to be disclosed -- right up there with whether unleaded paint is on the walls if the home was built before 1978.

And it goes without saying, best to disclose whether your house is built on a trash heap or is infested with garter snakes.

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I was an archaeologist for 15 years, and in that time, I was involved in providing data related to several lawsuits involving dumping of contaminants, and to determine who was ultimately responsible for their cleanup. From the trash shown in the video, the fill was likely dumped after 1973 and before c.1982. Barcodes (as shown on the plastic lid) made their debut in 1973, so the fill could not predate this year. The clear Coke bottles were last used circa 1982; they usually have their dates on the bases. So, the trash was dumped at some point between those years. So, all I can suggest is to find out who owned the property between 1973 and 1982; they are likely responsible for or know about the dumping. Also, it could become key to find out if subsequent landowners knew about it. I say go for it!

June 24 2011 at 6:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

No, we don't need regulations for anything - We're so loving and caring and we'll do each other right.

June 23 2011 at 11:15 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

We bought our house in Edmond Oklahoma from a Doctor!!! It is beautiful but they did not disclose that when it rains the garage floods up to 5 inches!!! We now will have to install a $3500 drainage system. They say it is illegal for them not to disclose but there is not one damn thing you can do about it if they don't!! They also didn't disclose that they had the carpets cleaned every three weeks because their two little dogs were allowed to pee in the house, so $10000 worth of flooring within a month of moving in!!! What a nightmare. The doctor moved to Tulsa and I would love to go to his office with a sign and sit out front for a week!!!

June 23 2011 at 10:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I to was efffected by aland dump and my new home. Gems land Fill Vs Frank Maiese I got very sick and lost my hearing from meningitis There were several companies that dunpted in this land fill when I finanly got to court on the First day Bob Sugarmen said some thing and it was called a misstrial. Here I am with the worst hearing and can not get ajob. This was the LAW OF THE LAND. I wish to thank all who worked on this case and was involed with the trash dump. My X brother-in-law's family The Riff's Glouster TWP. New Jersey

June 23 2011 at 10:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Eme to join chetr

June 22 2011 at 9:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Need Pre Paid Legai.Fool

June 22 2011 at 9:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

nofooling call pre paid legal

June 22 2011 at 9:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i agree with these people. not sure if the people knew about the trash or snakes but they orobably heard things and never said nothing. people will do anything to sell bad property. i know i bought one but my problem is not like thiers. mine is paranormal. and i bet the people who sold me the propoty knew!

June 22 2011 at 12:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's pointless to fight it! The house is in the snake habitat - no matter what they do, the snakes will ALWAYS come back..! Best to remove the house, salvage what you can, and give tours of an ideal snake utopia.! There are folks who are into herpetology who would thoroughly enjoy it.

June 21 2011 at 10:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How about setting a couple of Mongeese loose in the home for a month or two? They will make short work of the snake problem, and will be a lot easier to trap and remove when the snakes are gone!
Of course you might want to get several, as judging by the sheer numbers of snakes, the Mongeese will think it's Thanksgiving every day!

June 21 2011 at 6:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to oneirishwitch's comment

Where do you get a mongoose? How much do the cost?

June 23 2011 at 9:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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