South Carolina Code (Title 27, Chapter 50, Article 1) requires owners of residential real estate to provide a purchaser a completed and signed South Carolina Residential Property Condition Disclosure Statement prior to forming a real estate contract.
Owners are required to answer the questions on this disclosure statement fully, honestly and appropriately and provide explanations when they are required.
If a question is answered "yes" or asks for a description, the owner must explain or descibe the issue. Sometimes, a descriptive report from a home services contractor may be attached to confirm that there is no problem or that a condition has been corrected.
If the owner fails to check "yes" or make a disclosure, knowing that there is a problem, the owner might be liable for an intentional or negligent misrepresentation and might wind up owing the purchaser monetary damages, court costs and attorney fees.
If a question is answered "no," the owner is stating that he or she has no actual knowledge of any problems.
If a question is answered "no representation," the owner is stating that the owner has no knowledge regarding property condition or characteristics for that specific question.
If a question is answered and subsequently new information comes to light, the owner must promptly modify and correct the disclosure accordingly. An example of this would be if the roof begins to leak or if the HVAC starts malfunctioning.
It is the owner who is solely responsible for completing this disclosure statement. However, if a real estate agent is assisting in the sale, the agent must disclose material facts about the property that are known by the agent (or reasonably should have been known).
As relates to answering the question about a mouse in the house, the disclosure form asks specifically about "known present pest infestations."
If the owner (or real estate agent) saw just one mouse in the house, well that's hardly a pest infestation and probably does not have to be disclosed. Have you ever seen a disclosure about an occasional palmetto bug in the house or a small lizard on the lanai?
However, if the mouse was huge, well that's material and should be disclosed.
Larry Stoller is a local broker and Realtor with Real Estate Five of the Lowcountry. Larry@RealEstateFive.com or www.RealEstateFive.com