The Residential Real Property Disclosure Act of the Illinois Compiled Statutes requires that any seller of residential real estate provide a prospective buyer with an Illinois Residential Real Property Disclosure (“Disclosure”). The Disclosure is a set of questions designed to elicit the disclosure of certain conditions of the property, such as leakage, defects, or other unsafe conditions. Although the Disclosure is comprehensive, it does not always address all the issues that can affect a residence. This is why it is important for potential buyers of real estate to obtain their own inspections prior to finalizing any purchase of property.
The risk associated with forgoing residential inspections is demonstrated by a recent decision of the Illinois Third District Court of Appeals in Kalkman v. Nedved, 2013 IL App 3d.120800 (2013). In Kalkman, the plaintiff married couple, Jason and Lucia Kalkman, became interested in purchasing a lakefront home owned by the defendants, the Nedveds.
The Kalkmans obtained a mold inspection, which uncovered a mold problem that was resolved between the parties, and a formal home inspection that did not reveal any significant problems other than a potential issue with the windows. The Kalkmans also reviewed the Disclosure provided by the Nedveds stated that the sellers had no knowledge any material defects in the home.
The Kalkmans purchased the home and, shortly after moving in, discovered a number of leaks in the windows and doors which allowed water to enter the home and saturate the walls and floors. The Kalkmans filed suit against the Nedveds, claiming that the failure to disclose the defects in the windows and doors constituted a violation of the Residential Real Property Disclosure Act (“Act”) and common law fraud.
The issue presented to the trial court was whether the Nedveds were obligated to disclose the defects to the windows and doors under an item in the Disclosure which stated, “I am aware of material defects in the walls or floors” to which the Nedveds had responded in the negative. The trial court ruled in the Kalkmans’ favor, opining that the language of the Disclosure was to be interpreted broadly, and that the term “walls”, as used in the Disclosure, included “doors and windows.” The trial court awarded the Kalkmans damages in the amount of $25,478.21 and attorney’s fees of $11,500.
On appeal by the Nedveds, the Third District reversed the trial court, finding that the Act and Disclosure had to be strictly interpreted. The Court held that, because the dictionary denition of wall does not include a window or a door it was “reasonable to conclude that the ordinary meaning of wall excludes windows and doors.” Accordingly the Nedveds had no obligation to disclose defects in windows and doors to the Kalkmans under the Disclosure.
The Kalkman case demonstrates the importance of potential purchasers of property having knowledge of the real estate purchase process or obtaining the services on a professional that does. If you have questions regarding steps involved in the purchase of real estate, or need additional information about real estate transactions, contact the experienced real estate attorneys at The Slater Firm, Ltd. today.