Have you purchased a property and have discovered, to your surprise, latent defects that require fixing? If so, you may have recourse against the seller.
Latent defects are defined as defects that render the property unfit for the use it was intended for or that reduce the property’s usefulness to a point where the buyer wouldn’t have purchased the property or wouldn’t have paid as much if they had known about the defects. Both movable and immovable property can contain latent defects. Patent defects, however, are not guaranteed, unless the seller has made a commitment to that effect. A defect is deemed patent when it can be observed by a prudent and diligent buyer without consulting an expert.
If you have discovered that your property contains a latent defect, it is important to notify the seller of this in writing as quickly as possible. This formality is required for initiating an action for latent defects. Furthermore, prior to commencing work, unless there is an emergency, you must have the buyer examine the defect with the expert of their choice. You can, by the same token, issue to the buyer a formal demand of performance. It is equally important that you consult an expert to confirm the existence of the defect and determine that it existed prior to the sale.
The statutory limitation for such recourse is three years from the date at which the defect was observed. Therefore, even if you have purchased the property many years ago, you may still have recourse, so long as it is possible to demonstrate that the defect existed when the property was sold.
In some instances, prior sellers can also be involved in defects. In such cases, we often see a chain of claims for a guarantee where each previous buyer claims damages to their seller.