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Disclosure obligations of Arizona sellers

Traditionally, the old phrase "caveat emptor," or "let the buyer beware," applied to sale and purchase of real estate. In other words, although a seller was not allowed to lie or intentionally try to trick someone, they had no legal obligation to talk about their property's defects and shortcomings. It was in the buyer, for example, to find out about the leaky pipe or the disputed boundary in the back yard.

Like other states, though, Arizona has moved away from caveat emptor when it comes to the purchase of real estate, and, specifically, residential homes. In Arizona, a seller now has a legal obligation to make a variety of disclosures about his or her property, even if neither the buyer nor the buyer's agent specifically asks for the information.

Basically, a seller must disclose all "material" facts about his or her property, good or bad. A "material" fact is, speaking generally, something a buyer would likely want to know before purchasing a piece of property, or a fact that is important in the decision making process. Material facts include information not only about the home itself but also about the legal status of the property, such as whether the boundaries are what they appear or whether there are any liens on the property.

It is very important for sellers to be detailed in making disclosures, and there are forms available that sellers can complete and thereby be better assured that they have not left anything out. Unfortunately, even accidentally forgetting to disclose a material fact about the property can lead to a lawsuit and, possibly, having to pay compensation. It is generally best, therefore, to disclose an issue if there is any doubt about whether to do so.

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