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Are Bed Bugs Latent Defects in Real Estate?

Are Bed Bugs a Latent Defect In the Sale of Maryland Real Estate? Maryland courts have not yet decided the exact issue of whether bed bugs are a latent defect in residential real estate, and statutes do not specifically whether bed bugs are latent defects.  Our bed bug latent defect attorneys have successfully resolved purchases of bed bug infested residential real estate in Maryland in favor of the buyers.

Do Sellers Have to Disclose Bed Bugs When Selling a House?

Obviously, no buyer would want to purchase a home without knowing that bed bugs were present in the house. With respect to bed bugs in residential real estate, there are few conditions that are more feared by informed buyers.  Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to detect, are expensive to treat at up to $2,000 per treatment, and can take months to completely exterminate.  Often times even with treatment bed bugs can remain present for many months.  Bed bugs in a residence cause an extreme hardship to residents therein, in the form of physical distress from bites and severe allergic reaction sometimes requiring hospital visits and steroid prescriptions, and in the form of emotional distress from anxiety, stress and long-term sleeplessness.  The financial hardship can often be overwhelming, especially for residents who have just made a large down payment, paid for movers and have little spare cash as the result of the move.

In our experience, sellers of residential real estate are hesitant to disclose the presence of bed bugs in a house to potential residents because they want to make the sale.  Because we have heard of many cases where sellers failed to disclose the presence of bed bugs in the house for sale, we strongly suggest that potential home buyers have a licensed pest control company perform a bed bug inspection as a contingent condition on the sale of house.  While some licensed pest control companies perform free inspections, many times an inspection will be less than $200 – well worth the peace of mind.

Maryland Law Requires The Disclosure Of Latent Defects

What latent defects is the seller required to disclose?  The answer is that the seller must disclose all latent defects.  Maryland law directly addresses the issue of disclosure of latent defects in residential real estate and requires latent defects to be disclosed.   

Maryland law defines a latent defect in Section 1-702 of the  Real Property Article, Annotated Code of Maryland as:  “latent defects” means material defects in real property or an improvement to real property that: 1.  A purchaser would not reasonably be expected to ascertain or observe by a careful visual inspection of the real property; and 2. Would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of: i. The purchaser; or ii. An occupant of the real property, including a tenant or invitee of the purchaser.

In other words, a latent defect is a material defect in a residence, whether townhouse, rowhouse or stand-alone single family home that the buyer cannot easily see or find, and that is harmful to an occupant’s health or safety. So what counts as material defect?  A material defect is a fact that a buyer would consider to be important when deciding to purchase the house, deciding how much to pay for the house, or other aspects of the real estate transaction.  In other words, a material fact is something that a potential buyer would need to know about in order to fairly evaluate the condition of the house and determine (1) if they are going to make an offer, and (2) what price to make an offer at.

Latent Defect Listed in Disclosure or Disclaimer Statement

All sellers of residential real estate in Maryland are required to use one of two forms in disclosing latent defects when deciding what to disclose in the sale of their home. The two statements are known as the “Disclosure Statement” and the “Disclaimer Statement.”  The exact form for each can be downloaded Disclosure and Disclaimer Forms – MD on the website of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation

Although the statements sound similar, there are significant differences.  The Disclosure Form poses 19 questions addressing the condition of the house for sale that the seller must truthfully respond to.  On the other hand, the Disclaimer Form allows the seller to to disclose only the latent defects in the house, with the rest of the house for sale as-is.  For an easy-to-read article further describing the differences of the Disclosure v. Disclaimer Statements, see this article by licensed Maryland Real Estates Agents: Realities of Real Estate – What Do Sellers Need to Disclose. Further insight and description of Maryland’s Disclosure/Disclaimer law is available on the Maryland Association of Realtor’s FAQ Page.

 

Do I Have a Case Against Sellers Who Did Not Disclose Bed Bugs?

In the sale of real estate, there are many different factors to consider when evaluating any type of case, including latent defect cases.  The issues of notice, the timing of notice, any statements made by both the seller and the seller’s agent, and other issues can all be important.  The bed bug latent defect attorneys of Whitney, LLP have handled hundreds of bed bug cases on behalf of residents of houses and apartments infested with bed bugs.  Uniformly, our clients are extremely upset that they were not told about the presence of bed bugs, and would never have agreed to enter into the lease or contract for sale if full disclosure had been made.  We have achieved favorable results for our clients in bed bug latent defect claims in Maryland.

If you, your loved ones, or your friends have been deceived into purchasing a house that has bed bugs, we may be able to help.  Contact our attorneys now for a free case evaluation.  Our phone number is 410 583 8000, or use our Quick Contact Website Form.  We accept cases throughout Maryland, including Baltimore City, Towson, Annapolis, Rockville, Upper Marlboro, Silver Spring, Columbia, Ellicott City, Waldorf, Glen Burnie and Frederick.

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