There are plenty of words in a vocabulary of a REALTOR that make the average person tip their head like a puppy and give a quizzical expression until it’s been explained. Possibly at great length… and multiple times. Honestly as a REALTOR, I can tell you we give that look often enough ourselves when the laws or bank regulations change.

“Latent defect” is one of those terms rarely used outside of the sale of real estate. But it’s an important part of the transaction and representation of the property being transferred. Latent Defect (as per law.cornell.edu website quoting Nolo’s Plain-English Law) means “A hidden flaw, weakness, or imperfection that cannot be discovered by reasonable inspection. It may refer to real property  or personal property. Discovery of a latent defect generally entitles the purchaser to a refund or a nondefective replacement”. 

Now this definition is the broad meaning of the word in all properties or tangible transfers that may take place, as in a car. However we are speaking in Real Estate terms. So what we take from this is that a latent defect is anything pertaining to a property that we cannot easily or reasonably account for but the owner should be aware of themselves.

The reason this is so important is because it is the sellers legal obligation to disclose any latent defect that they know about or should know about. Examples include a foundation crack in the garage hidden behind a wood pile, or an easement that cuts across the property for the town, service provider, land-locked neighbor, etc.

On the other hand a cracked window covered with shades isn’t necessarily a latent defect because it can be found rather easily by the buyer or their inspector. It should however be disclosed if it’s known.

And remember I am not a lawyer, and don’t pretend to be. As a REALTOR our professional knowledge is based off continuing education and experience, not legal schooling. Please consult a legal resource and always use legal representation when buying or selling real estate in NY State.

-Mindy Bradley of the Welcome Home Team