The principle of caveat emptor, or buyer beware, is very much prevalent in Canada’s real-estate laws. Unless seller fraud can be proven, the onus is often on the buyer to ensure the structural and legal soundness of the property he or she is buying.
However, there is one sensible remedy to the problem of buying a property that comes with possible defects, and that’s the home inspection. In fact, there are two actions a property buyer can consider when the status of the property is still in question.
Hire a professional
First, a property buyer can hire a professional to conduct the home inspection. Such home inspectors are capable of finding possible defects that the average person couldn’t, such as problems with a property’s electrical or plumbing systems, its foundation or roofing, etc.
Second, a property buyer can make the purchase of a property conditional upon such a home inspector giving his or her professional approval of the property that’s up for sale. In other words, the sale won’t go through, in essence, unless the professional home inspection shows no defects in the property in question.
Previously, we have discussed the difference between patent and latent defects. Patent defects are those detectable by a reasonable home inspection. Latent defects are those that aren’t. It’s these latter latent defects that can prove problematic if something goes wrong.
The law tends to give the seller the benefit of the doubt regarding latent defects. Unless a seller had specific knowledge of the defect, did nothing to fix it, and concealed its existence to the property buyer, the responsibility for the defect lies with the buyer.
That’s why the conduction of a professional home inspection can be crucial. Such inspections can detect latent defects, thus avoiding future problems for the buyer. Upon detection of such defects, the buyer can insist that the seller has them fixed, or simply cancel the purchase.
In addition, a buyer can insist that a professional home inspector has liability insurance. So, if a latent defect is not detected by the home inspector, but later causes problems for the buyer, the home inspector can be held liable — and pay.
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