A latent defect is a hidden defect. It’s a physical deficiency or construction defect not readily ascertained from the reasonable inspection of the property, such as a defective septic tank or underground sewage system, or improper plumbing or electrical lines. Conversely, a patent defect is readily discernible to the untrained eye.
Real estate agents are expected to be knowledgeable about certain circumstances but not that might not be readily apparent to the casual observer. Even if such defects cannot be directly seen, an awareness of their existence (actual or contemplated), may be required.
There are four guidelines that can assist in uncovering latent defects:
- Inquire. Take the time to ask specific questions of the seller concerning such items as roofs, water seepage, condition of mechanical equipment and pools.
- Investigate. Carefully analyze the condition of such items through direct personal inspection.
- Verify. Point out any deficiencies to the seller based on personal investigation, and request additional information and/or assurances concerning such matters. Inform the seller that items of a material nature must be disclosed to the buyer.
- Disclose. Disclose the existence of any material matters concerning the property and allow the buyer sufficient time to investigate such items further.
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