What must owners disclose about a home during a sale?

February 17, 2021

Purchasing a home is a huge investment and an exciting opportunity. As such, it is a transaction with a lot on the line, and you should feel confident in the decision you are making.

Having all the pertinent information about a home can be a significant contributing factor to your confidence in the purchase, so buyers should know what sellers must disclose about a home during a sale. It can also be helpful to know what the law does not require them to disclose.

What do homeowners disclose?

In Ontario, homeowners should prepare to disclose 

details of a home that make it unsafe or uninhabitable

. These details include:

  • A history of fire or flooding

  • Asbestos

  • Mould

  • Lead in drinking water

  • Pest infestations

  • Faulty wiring

  • Non-permitted work in the home

Failing to notify potential buyers of these factors – or worse, attempting to cover them up to deceive buyers – can 

result in legal action

Details a homeowner may not disclose

In Ontario, there are no laws that specifically require homeowners to disclose details like murder, suicide or violent crimes that occur in the home. And the expectation that sellers complete a Seller Property Information Statement (SPIS) “to the best of their knowledge” leaves considerable room for half-truths and withheld information.

That said, realtors in Ontario have an ethical obligation to disclose any stigmatizing information they have about a home. Although, the seller may not disclose this information to them, either. 

To avoid the consequences of buying dangerous or shady property, potential buyers should ask a seller and realtor about these details directly. While they may not offer this information, they cannot lie if a buyer asks about it.

Making informed decisions

Having as much background on a home as possible can minimize the risk of unpleasant surprises after you have signed a purchase agreement.

Thus, you can work with a lawyer to review disclosures, as well as the conditions of the sale. It is also wise to have a professional perform a comprehensive home inspection, which can reveal potential problems that affect the home’s value and your decision whether to buy it.