In the recent Wisconsin case of Griswold v Rogich, decided by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, it was held that a buyer could reasonbly rely upon a Seller’s representation in a Property Condition Report, even after an inspector pointed out that certain problems may exist and that further experts should be called in.
It seems that the Seller had not indicated on the Property Condition Report that the basement leaked. The inspector reported some damage to the walls in the basement, including bowing and cracking of the wall. He also noted presence of mineral salt deposits that indicated to him that there had once been water and moisture penetration in the basement. But he indicated it was impossible for him to tell whether and how much the basement leaked, and so he recommended calling in further experts.
The parties proceeded to close on the sale, with the Sellers providing the Buyer with a $5,000 credit "covering all defects." After closing, the basement leaked, and the Buyer sued, indicating his reliance upon the Property Condition Report.
The Court of Appeals focused on reliance, and whether the Buyer could rely upon the Property Condition Report failing to specify whether the basement leaked. Clearly, there are two lessons for parties to real estate transactions: 1. if you sign a release, be specific as to what you are releasing; and 2. if you provide a Property Condition Report, be accurate and detailed.If issues arise over Seller representations, specify the issue, refer to the representation in the Property Condition Report, and state exactly the extent to which the Seller is to be released.