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Arizona court rules in case of the sex offender next door


Under Arizona law, sellers of real estate are required to disclose certain facts about the property that could affect its value. A common cause of property disputes is a lack of disclosure about the property's condition. For example, if the roof on the property is falling apart, the sellers typically have to disclose this fact. If they don't, and the buyers discover an unanticipated and very expensive problem with their roof, the lack of disclosure could be cause for a lawsuit.

However, the law does not require sellers to disclose everything. A recent appeals court ruling tested just how much sellers must disclose.

The case involved the sale of a home in Scottsdale. They buyers filed suit against the sellers, arguing that the sellers had committed negligent misrepresentation by telling them that they were selling the house in order to live closer to friends. In fact, the buyers argued, the reason was that there was a sex offender living next door.

A trial court dismissed the buyers' suit. The Court of Appeals partially upheld that decision, ruling that sellers who don't disclose that there is a sex offender living next door can't be sued over this omission. However, the appeals court sent the case back to the lower courts to determine whether the buyers actually relied upon the sellers' stated reason for selling the home.

Real estate law is notoriously complicated. People in Arizona buy and sell homes or other real estate every day, and most of them won't ever have to air their grievances in court. However, when something goes wrong with a purchase or a sale, the dispute can raise very difficult legal issues. It's important for buyers and sellers to be aware of their rights and obligations. It's also important to have the help of real estate attorneys to help avoid disputes or to help resolve them when they arise.

Source: KVOA.com, "Court rules on sex offender real estate issue," Feb. 22, 2014

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