Question: We lived in our Glendale home for more than four years until we moved to our Sun City home. During the time that we lived in our Glendale home, we both worked during the day, as did our next-door neighbors, who had three dogs that were outside and barked constantly during the day. At night and during the weekends, however, the dogs were generally inside our next-door neighbors’ home. Three months ago, we sold our Glendale home. During escrow, the buyers came by our home several times during the day for inspections, and saw and heard the barking. The buyers even commented about the barking. We have now received a letter from the buyers’ attorney demanding $50,000 from us for loss in value of the home because of failing to disclose the barking of the dogs. The buyers’ attorney says that we should have disclosed the barking of the dogs in the Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement (“SPDS”). Although we filled out the SPDS, we never even thought to disclose the barking. Do we have any liability to the buyers when they heard the dogs barking when they visited our home?
Answer: Probably not. A seller of a home has to disclose all latent (“hidden”) material defects. The seller, however, does not have to disclose “open and obvious” material defects. In other words, if there is a huge hole in the roof above the living room, and everyone can see the sky, the seller does not have to disclose in the SPDS or otherwise this huge hole in the roof. Similarly, if the buyers of your home heard and commented on the dogs barking, you probably have no liability to the buyers.
Note: You should, however, have disclosed the noise of the dogs barking on line 202 (Neighborhood Noise) of the SPDS. Neither you nor any seller should leave it up to a jury or judge to decide whether or not disclosure to a buyer is required.