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Disclosures can protect home buyers and sellers

By William Simmons

When buying or selling a home, the disclosures the seller makes are very important to both parties.

State law requires the seller to complete a transfer disclosure statement, or TDS. Unfortunately, the State’s TDS is not very thorough. For this reason, the San Diego Association of Realtors has developed an additional disclosure form. It asks many questions that the TDS doesn’t, but it is not a mandated form.

Sellers may complete the required TDS in good faith, and still forget something that happened at the home that turns out to be very important. The San Diego form is designed to jog the seller’s memory, so that nothing significant is left out.

I was recently involved in very expensive litigation over boundary lines. The seller completed the TDS, and there was no issue about its completeness. Yet this controversy probably would have been avoided had either agent asked the seller to make the additional disclosures. The San Diego form asks several questions about boundary lines which this particular seller could have answered. Unfortunately, she was never asked.

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Obviously buyers and their agents should be asking for all the disclosures they can. But sellers, even if not asked, should be completing the additional disclosure form. Why? Because it may keep the seller out of a lawsuit, as just noted.

William Simmons is a member of the La Jolla Bar Association, a nonprofit professional association composed of attorneys who live or work in La Jolla. The LJBA can be reached at P.O. Box 1831 La Jolla, CA 92038.