Top 8 Things to Know About Tennessee Residential Property Disclosure Law

property disclosure lawyer in memphis tennesseeIf you are thinking of buying or selling a home, you may have questions about the basics on Tennessee property disclosure law. The Tennessee Residential Property Disclosure Act, Tenn. Code Ann. 66-5-201, et. seq., requires the Seller of a home to provide the Buyer with a Property Disclosure Statement.  Despite this law, there is still a large amount of civil litigation arising from defects discovered in a home after the Buyer has moved in. Be aware of these top things to know about Tennessee real estate property disclosure law:

Tennessee Property Disclosure Law

  1. Sellers are required to disclose the condition of the home, including any “material defects.” What does “material” mean? Generally, any fact or condition that might affect a Buyer’s decision to purchase the home.
  2. Sellers are only required to disclose based on the information they have.  Sellers are not required to have a home inspection, hire experts, or conduct an independent investigation to discover everything that might be wrong with their home.
  3. The Disclosure Statement is not a warranty. The disclosure form is not a substitute for a thorough home inspection.  If you are the Buyer, you shouldn’t just rely on the disclosure form. Hire your own home inspector.
  4. Some sellers are exempt from making disclosures. Common exceptions include sales or transfers between co-owners, new construction, purchases from lenders after foreclosure, auction sales, or if the Seller has not lived in the home within the 3 years before the Closing.
  5. Sellers are NOT Required to Repair Items listed in the Disclosure.  If you are the Buyer, be aware that Sellers don’t have to fix anything listed as broken or defective. If you want an item repaired, you must contract for it. In other words, both Buyer and Seller must agree in the final contract that an item will be repaired by the Seller before closing.
  6. Sellers ARE required to update their disclosures before closing. Sellers must update to address any material changes that have taken place since the original date of disclosure, or to confirm to the buyer that the original form is still accurate. Tenn. Code. Ann. 66-5-205.  If you are the Buyer, you should not close on a home without seeing an updated Disclosure Form signed and dated by the Seller.
  7. Representations in the Disclosure Form are those of the Seller only, and not the Real Estate Agents.  The Disclosure Act applies only to Sellers.  An agent can’t be sued under the Disclosure Act for information contained in a Seller’s disclosure form unless the agent is a signatory. Tenn. Code. Ann. 66-5-202; 66-5-208. However, real estate agents have certain disclosure duties pursuant to the Tennessee Real Estate Broker License Act of 1973.   Under the Real Estate Broker License Act, a real estate agent is required to “[d]isclose to each party to the transaction any “adverse facts” of which the licensee has actual notice or knowledge.”  Tenn. Code Ann. § 62-13-403.  What are adverse facts? Both Acts define adverse facts as conditions or occurrences generally recognized by competent agents that significantly reduce the structural integrity of improvements to real property or present a significant health risk to occupants of the property. Tenn. Code Ann. § 62–13–102(2); § 66–5–206. However, the definition of adverse facts found in the Real Estate Broker License Act also contains a third prong, for conditions or occurrences that “have negative impact on the value of the real estate.” Tenn. Code Ann. §62-13-102(2). See Ledbetter v. Schacht, 395 S.W.3d 130, 136 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2012).
  8. Any lawsuit against a Seller for a misrepresentation in a Disclosure Statement must be filed within one (1) year.  Any cause of action based directly on the disclosure law statutes will be lost if not filed within one (1) year from the date the buyer received the disclosure statement or the date of closing, or occupancy, whichever occurs first. Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-5-208.

Discovered a problem after closing?

If there is “trouble in paradise” with your new home and you think the Seller or a Real Estate Agent made a misrepresentation concerning the home, speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

While a lawsuit is not always necessary to resolve a legal issue, remember there are deadlines within which to file a lawsuit, if necessary.  An experienced litigation attorney can advise you of your options based on the particular facts of your situation.

Want to speak with an Attorney?

The attorneys at Wiseman Bray PLLC are experienced litigation and contract lawyers. We understand real estate transactions and sales, and we know the disclosure laws applying to both home sellers and real estate agents and brokers in Tennessee.  Call us today at (901) 372-5003.

Additional RESOURCES:

Read more about Lawsuit Deadlines: How Long Do I have to File a Lawsuit in Tennessee?

Property Damage by Tree Limbs and Roots

property damage by trees, property damage lawyerHave you ever wondered about property damage caused by tree limbs or roots?

First, let’s talk for a moment about your neighbor’s tree limbs.  Suppose the tree itself is on your neighbor’s property, but the limbs are hanging over your fence, casting unwanted shade or shedding leaves you don’t want to pick up.  This really bothers you. Can you trim the limbs even though the tree belongs to your neighbor and is on his property?

The quick answer is yes. But don’t ask your neighbor to pay for it. And don’t trim the limbs beyond the property line. If it’s a more serious matter, you might have a nuisance action for property damage.

Option 1: Self-Help—Trim the Branches Yourself

Under Tennessee law, you may, at your own expense, cut away intruding vegetation to the property line whether or not it constitutes a nuisance or is otherwise causing harm to your property.

Option 2: Nuisance Action—Bring Suit to Make Your Neighbor Pay Damages and Fix the Problem

In some cases, you may have a cause of action for nuisance. A nuisance lawsuit may be brought when tree branches or roots from the adjacent property encroach upon and damage your property. Lane v. W.J. Curry & Sons, 92 S.W.3d 355, 356-57 (Tenn. 2002).

What is a Nuisance?

In Tennessee, a private nuisance is anything which disturbs the free use of your property, or which renders its ordinary use or physical occupation uncomfortable. This extends to problems that endanger life or health, give offense to the senses, violate the laws of decency, or obstruct the reasonable and comfortable use of property.

Encroaching trees and plants are not nuisances just because they cast shade, drop leaves, flowers, or fruit, or just because they intrude upon your property either above or below the ground. However, the problem may be a nuisance if it causes actual harm or poses an imminent danger of actual harm to your property.

Example of a Nuisance Case

The Lane case represents a pretty extreme case of nuisance. In that case, the trees at issue caused a hole in the plaintiff’s roof and water from that hole ruined her ceilings and stove. In addition, the plaintiff had severe plumbing problems as a result of encroaching tree roots. She was not able to use her bathroom sink or tub for two years. Nor could she flush her toilet. Even worse, raw sewage bubbled up into her bathtub and the floor had to be replaced because the toilet continually backed up. The Court stated:

Clearly, the defendant’s encroaching trees have adversely affected the plaintiff’s reasonable and ordinary use and occupation of her home, not to mention posing hazards to the plaintiff’s health and safety. Accordingly, we reject the defendant’s assertion that its trees do not constitute a nuisance.

What’s the end result of a nuisance lawsuit?

The owner of the offending tree may be held responsible for harm caused and may also be required to cut back the encroaching branches or roots if a court finds that the encroaching vegetation is a nuisance.

If you are successful in a private nuisance action, you may be entitled to several types of remedies. A court might order that the nuisance be stopped (injunctive relief). You may also be entitled to money damages for the cost of restoring your property to its pre-nuisance condition, as well as damages for inconvenience, emotional distress, and injury to the use and enjoyment of your property.

Read more about tree limbs and the law in Tennessee by reading our previous blog post titled, “Law FAQ: My Neighbor’s Tree Hangs Over the Property Line. Do I have the right to cut back the branches?” 

Need a Property Damage Lawyer?

Disputes between neighbors can be very uncomfortable. We can help, whether that means facilitating communication, fashioning an amicable resolution, or, if all else fails, filing a lawsuit. We’re here to help you find a solution that works for YOU!  Call us at 901-372-5003 or email us here if you need a property damage lawyer.

Meet the Wiseman Bray PLLC team by clicking here.