Ohio Disclosure Obligations

How much does an Ohio home seller need to tell buyers about the property’s physical condition and defects?

If you are getting ready to sell your Ohio house, you know that you are about to face a mountain of paperwork. Whether you choose to use a REALTOR or go it alone, you likely need to complete a Residential Property Disclosure Form┬á(according to┬áOhio Revised Code┬á┬ž┬á5302.30). With all the effort involved in selling a house, you might be inclined to rush through this form, but there are many good reasons to give it some close attention, as discussed in this article.

Purpose of the Ohio Residential Property Disclosure Form

The Residential Property Disclosure Form is supposed to alert prospective home buyers to known problems with the property, such as roof leaks, electrical troubles, malfunctioning appliances, pests, and so on. The form is used only in the sale of residential property with one to four dwelling units.
Sellers are required to give this form to home buyers; that is, to people with whom they might enter into a purchase contract.
If the buyers sign a purchase contract before receiving the disclosures, they can rescind the contract. They would need to do so within three business days.
Ohio disclosure law requires sellers to disclose only those items they actually know about. This means that you aren’t required to get an independent inspection to complete the form, only to list what you actually have learned and observed about the house through having lived there and taken care of it.

Which Sellers Need Not Fill Out Ohio Disclosure Form

Not every seller of residential property in Ohio is required to complete the disclosure form. You need not do so if the home sale you’re involved in is either a:

  • forced sale, such as a foreclosure, bankruptcy, probate transaction, or eminent domain
  • transfer from one co-owner to another
  • transfer to someone who has lived in the property for the previous two years
  • family transaction, such as between spouses (including divorcing spouses), children, or parents, or
  • a house that you own via inheritance but have not occupied within the last year.

What the Ohio Seller’s Disclosure Form Covers

The form you will need to fill out as an Ohio home seller covers many types of items and issues, from legal to structural to environmental, in accordance with both law and local custom. Here’s a summary sampling:

  • water supply
  • sewer system
  • roof
  • water leakage or accumulation problems
  • foundation
  • basement / crawl space
  • floors
  • interior and exterior walls
  • termites and other wood-destroying insects
  • electrical system
  • plumbing
  • heating
  • air conditioning
  • fireplace and chimney
  • built-in appliances, like a water softener, security system, microwave, or oven
  • any oil, gas, or mineral right leases on the property
  • in cases where the property is within a community run by a homeowner’s association, any new proposed assessments, fees, or abatements
  • lead-based paint
  • asbestos
  • urea-formaldehyde foam insulation
  • radon gas
  • underground storage tanks
  • wells
  • flood plains
  • erosion
  • zoning violations, and
  • issues with boundary lines.

At the end of the form, sellers are asked to mention any additional material defects; that is, problems that could cause a buyer to not buy the property because of anticipated costs to repair or replace. Material defects are also things that are potentially dangerous, such as contamination, loose boards, areas where people could fall and get hurt. By including an “other” section, the form obviously intends sellers not to leave out any problems that don’t neatly fall into one of the existing categories on the form.

What Ohio Sellers Need Not Disclose

Sellers of Ohio real estate don’t have to disclose everything. If the problem is open to observation, like a water stain in the ceiling that could be seen by anyone walking under it, then the seller does not have to disclose it.
The seller must not, nevertheless, do anything to conceal or prevent the buyer from investigating a problem, like locking an entry door to a garage or putting out air fresheners to mask odors. The seller must also not engage in fraud, nor falsely deny, if asked, that a problem exists.

Disclosure Required Under Federal Law

If your house was built before 1978, you will need to comply with federal law about lead-based paint. The law is called the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 (U.S. Code ┬ž 4852d), also known as Title X. It requires sellers to tell buyers about all known lead-based paint and hazards in the house. Sellers must also give buyers a pamphlet titled┬áProtect Your Family from Lead in Your Home┬áprepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Sellers must also allow buyers ten days to test the house for lead.
Your contract will need to include warning language about the lead based paint. You will, as the seller, need to keep copies of the signed acknowledgement for three years after the sale is completed.
Failing to comply with the requirements carries a stiff penalty for sellers. The buyer can sue for triple the amount of damages actually suffered.

Seller’s Responsibilities When Completing Ohio Disclosure Form

In order to responsibly and accurately fill out this form, you will need to mark down any material (non-trivial) items you know about, like loose back steps and a microwave that doesn’t work. But you don’t need to worry about things you don’t know about, for example if your neighbor, unbeknownst to you, built the new backyard fence a few inches on your side of the property line.
When in doubt, however; for example, if you have heard odd noises┬á in the attic but aren’t sure what it means; it’s better to disclose what you know than to conceal the truth and potentially face a later lawsuit for fraud or nondisclosure.(Speak to your real estate agent or an attorney for more information.)
Also realize that the buyers, knowing that you aren’t obligated to inspect or provide comprehensive information about the property, will likely want to obtain an independent inspection and title search prior to finalizing the home purchase.