RALEIGH (WTVD) -- As a general rule, whatever you "disclose" about your house has to be correct. Also, if a seller or broker is specifically asked about something, they can't give a false answer.
In North Carolina, where the practice tends toward buyer beware, sellers are required to fill out a disclosure form, but they can "opt out" of disclosing just about anything by asserting "no representation."
"The seller, in a private transaction, does have the option to opt out of disclosure," said Legal Counsel and Director of Regulatory Affairs for the North Carolina Real Estate Commission, Janet Thoren. "But typically, sellers in real estate transactions are employing brokers to help them list and sell their property, and brokers have duties to disclose if they know about a particular property."
What brokers must disclose in North Carolina
1. Health and safety issues
Home brokers must disclose anything that may be a risk to the buyer's health and safety, including hazardous or toxic substances or environmentally hazardous conditions that affect the property.
The most common issue disclosed is lead-based paint. Brokers must also disclose asbestos, toxic mold, radon, and if a home was formerly used as a meth lab.
RELATED: The secret behind meth houses in North Carolina
2. Oil and gas rights
Brokers have to disclose if a previous seller has severed any rights, the current seller has already severed the oil and gas rights, or a seller intends to sever them upon sale.
3. Natural hazards
If a home is located in a flood zone, fire zone, earthquake zone, or along any other area considered moderate to high-risk for a natural disaster, it must be disclosed by a broker.
4. Future construction projects or pending community litigation
This includes proposed roadways and developments and pending community litigations - situations that could affect buyers through increased fees, property loss, and lifestyle changes. If any exist in the immediate vicinity, they must be disclosed by a broker.
5. Known defects, seen and unseen
Defects or malfunctions in the home's foundation, slab, fireplace, chimney, floors, windows, doors, ceilings, walls, garage, patio, deck, electrical system, plumbing system, heating and cooling system, sewage disposal system, TV cable wiring, ceiling fans, exhaust fans, irrigation system, garage door opener, pools, spa, etc., must be disclosed by a broker.
If there are any standing water or pest issues (termites), these must also be disclosed.
6. Homeowners association assessments and covenants
All information about an HOA needs to be disclosed, including contact information, annual assessments (dues), amenities included, restrictions, and what all fees cover. Buyers should also be informed about the HOA's financial health.
7. Neighborhood nuisances
A "nuisance" can be a noise or odor from a source outside the property that could irritate the property's occupants. North Carolina requires brokers to disclose noises, odors, smoke, or other nuisances from commercial, industrial, or military sources that affect the property.
Things that don't (always) require disclosure in North Carolina
Someone dying in a home does not need to be disclosed during a sale: including suicides, accidents, or violent crimes (yes, even if it was murder).
This has been codified in state law. Experts said lawmakers were trying to destigmatize a property with a violent or unsavory history.
2. Missing items
Some states try to protect buyers who fail to notice that a home is missing an essential component until after they move in.
In Texas and Michigan, for example, sellers are required to disclose whether their property includes a long list of items: such as kitchen appliances, central air conditioning and heating, rain gutters, exhaust fans, and water heaters.
North Carolina has no such list or law.
3. Square footage
If a seller does disclose square footage, it has to be accurate but there's no obligation for a seller to make the information public.
Note: If a home is listed on the MLS (the local Multiple Listing Service), the agent is responsible for accurate measurement.
4. Fire history
Homes partially destroyed by fire or flood, so long as it was repaired and remodeled to code, don't have to be disclosed.
5. Sex offenders that live in the neighborhood
While a seller or broker do not have to mention sex offenders in the area, the information is made public on an online through the NC Sex Offender Registry.
6. The financial state of seller
If a seller is behind on mortgage payments, that remains their business.
Fact: A seller does not have to disclose if they believe a property to be haunted.