Category Archives: Real Estate

Selling Your Home? Be Aware of Your Legal Duty to Disclose Defects

Real estate prices are up again, and you are considering selling your home. It’s a great home and you feel that you’ve done an admirable job maintaining it, but it does have its flaws and defects. Do you need to disclose these defects to your buyer? In Wisconsin the answer is “Yes”. The law requires persons who transfer real property located in this state to furnish a completed Real Estate Condition Report to the prospective buyer no later than 10 days after accepting a sales contract.  Whether you are represented by a realtor or selling your home as a For Sale By Owner, you must comply with these legal requirements.

What is a Defect?

Under the Wisconsin disclosure law a “defect” is defined as any condition that would have a significant adverse effect on the value of the property; that would significantly impair the health or safety of the future occupants of the property; or that if not repaired, removed or replaced would significantly shorten or adversely affect the expected normal life of the premises.

What Defects Must You Disclose to Your Buyer?

The Real Estate Condition Report required under Wisconsin law lists several defects and conditions that could potentially apply to a property. When completing the report a seller must honestly identify the applicable defects or conditions of which the seller is aware (of which he or she has notice or knowledge). Such defects or conditions include things such as: defects in the roof, electrical system, plumbing, heating and cooling system, cracks or seepage in the basement walls, boundary line disputes, unsafe levels of radon, along with a long list of other possible defects. The report also has a catch-all question that asks the seller to identify any “other” defects affecting the property of which the seller is aware. Continue reading

Wisconsin Adverse Possession Law: Do Recent Changes Matter?

FenceThe legal doctrine of adverse possession allows a person or entity to assume ownership of another’s property if that person or entity adversely possessed the land and certain conditions have been met. One might think that this old common-law doctrine is no longer relevant. Yet, adverse possession claims continue to cause numerous real estate disputes in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

What Is Adverse Possession?

A typical adverse possession case involves a fence. Take this situation as an example: one farmer accidentally builds a fence 12 inches over the property line of his neighbor’s land. After a certain period, usually 20 years, the farmer who built the fence could obtain title to those 12 inches under the law of adverse possession. This 20-year period is shortened to 10 years if the claim is supported by a written instrument that transferred the property to the adverse possessor. It is shortened to 7 years if supported by a written instrument and the adverse possessor had been paying the real estate taxes during that period. Continue reading