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Am I liable for lack of disclosure when I sell?

Illinois, like many other states, requires that when selling residential real estate, you must disclose any issues with the property. Illinois uses a specific disclosure act to govern this, and an exhaustive list of items to disclose, ranging from water leakage in the basement to any number of other material defects. So if you fail to disclose these material defects, can you be held liable in court?

It depends on the situation. According to Illinois's Residential Real Property Disclosure Act, if you had no prior knowledge of material defects later discovered by the buyer, you cannot be held liable. This can include if you provided false information in the disclosure based on public information provided to you in error. Other examples include if you disclosed that the walls of the house were sound when the interior drywall had a mold infestation that was not visible on standard inspection. As long as you can reasonably show that you had no prior knowledge, you cannot be held liable.

However, if you did have prior knowledge and failed to disclose, you may be held accountable in court. Courts generally award any damages caused by your failure to disclose, as well as court costs - but may also award attorney's fees to the plaintiff. If, for example, you knew that the chimney of the home was unstable and verging on collapse, if the chimney later collapsed and caused injuries you would be liable not only for the repairs, but any other damages to the home and possibly the medical costs of the injured parties.

This has been an informational blog post meant only for educational purposes, and should not be misconstrued as legal advice.

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