DISCLAIMER: As a friendly reminder, this blog post is meant to be used for educational purposes only, not legal advice. If you need assistance navigating the legalities of what to disclose when selling a home in New Jersey (NJ) or using seller disclosure forms, HomeLight always encourages you to reach out to your own advisor.
If you’re considering selling your New Jersey home, you’ve probably wondered what kind of disclosure forms the Garden state requires and how much you need to know about the specifics of your home to successfully close a sale.
According to New Jersey Realtors®, the only required disclosure form pertains to the owners’ knowledge of lead paint or paint hazards in homes constructed prior to 1978.
Filled out and signed by the homeowner at the time of listing, the form verifies whether the seller has knowledge of the presence of lead-based paint or hazards on the property.
That disclosure also entitles the buyers to conduct or waive a 10-day opportunity to conduct their own risk assessment or inspection for the presence of lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards.
If the seller’s home was built in 1979 or afterward, the form is not required.
Do sellers have to disclose anything other than lead paint hazards?
The lead paint disclosure is the only form sellers must complete. In the sale of a home, New Jersey statutes — and court — assume an “implied warranty of habitability,” which means the home is fit to live in.
That “common law” obligates sellers to disclose any known, concealed material defects in the home and property to the buyer.
If the seller’s knowledge of the problem — particularly if it requires an expensive solution or compromises the health and safety of the buyers — is revealed after the sale, it can result in lawsuits.
That’s why top-notch agent Joanne Botwinick of Point Pleasant, New Jersey routinely collaborates with her clients to complete the New Jersey Board of Realtors Standard Form of Sellers Property Condition Disclosure Statement and auxiliary forms about additional items if necessary.
There are forms that cover specific situations ranging from a house that’s haunted (which you don’t necessarily have to disclose upfront but must reveal if the buyer asks) to solar panels.
“If you don’t have it, you can still sell the house,” she says. “But, it’s a tool that helps expedite the sale of a home.”
Botwinick, who works with over 81% more single-family homes than the average agent in her market, says disclosures avoid wasting the sellers’ time with buyers who will eliminate the home from their prospect list once they become aware something about the home doesn’t meet their criteria.
From the age of the water heater to HOA restrictions, “The disclosure form helps the buyers make an educated decision as to whether they want to consider or purchase the house,” she says. “Providing the information upfront saves the seller time and angst by reducing the chance the buyer will back out of the transaction.”
A seller’s biggest mistake is not disclosing a problem,” she says “because the home inspection will reveal it.
- Joanne Botwinick
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Real Estate Agent at BHHS Fox & Roach
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What if sellers don’t know the answers to the questions?
For homeowners intimidated by the complex 107-question form, Botwinick offers simple advice: Be honest about what you know and what you don’t know.
The disclosure clearly states “the seller alone is the sole source of information,” which suggests the information is being provided by a homeowner rather than an expert in construction or a related field.
For that reason, sellers have the option of responding to the questions by marking yes, no, or unknown.
Sellers who have never lived in the home — such as those who inherited the property as part of an estate or bought it at a sheriff’s sale or as an investment — generally mark the unknown category throughout.
“Other homeowners honestly may not know information such as if their home has termites or whether the wiring is 220 or 110,” says Botwinick.
However, “A seller’s biggest mistake is not disclosing a problem,” she says “because the home inspection will reveal it.”
What’s on the New Jersey Realtors® disclosure form?
The New Jersey Board of Realtors® form specifically asks the seller to disclose information about:
This section establishes the:
- seller’s ownership of the property (with a copy deed attached to the disclosure)
- home’s age
- purchase date
- length of time the seller has owned the property
- details of whether, when, and for how long the seller occupied the property
This section reveals:
- the age of the roof
- whether the roof has been repaired or replaced during the seller’s ownership
- knowledge of any leaks
Attic, basement, crawl space
This section seeks indications of water damage or moisture problems by asking about:
- the functioning and number of sump pumps
- water dampness, accumulation and leaks, and mold growth in the basement, crawlspace, and other structures
- repairs to control water issues
- cracks or bulges in the floor or foundation walls
- restrictions on attic usage resulting from its construction
- whether ventilation is provided by a whole house or attic fan and its operability
- whether the attic is accessible by a staircase, pull-down ladder, crawl space, etc.
Termites, wood-destroying insects, rot, pests
This part of the form requests details about whether the home has ever been inspected for and/or experienced damage due to termites, pests, or rot, and whether the property is currently under contract with a licensed pest control company.
This section of the form prompts sellers to think about past and current issues with structural integrity that may threaten the health and safety of future occupants and/or require extensive, expensive repairs.
The source of problems range from forces of nature such as Hurricane Sandy to human error or materials used in construction that were later found to be substandard.
The form asks for sellers to report:
- movement and shifting of walls, floors, or foundation, or limitations in the use of space resulting from the manner in which it was constructed
- whether the property has ever experienced fire, wind, smoke, or flood damage
- the stability of driveways, walkways, patios, sinkholes, or retaining walls
- use of fire retardant plywood in construction
- any present or past efforts made to repair any problems with the items in this section
This section explores whether additions or structural changes were made by present or past owners and whether those changes received the necessary permits and approvals.
Plumbing, water, sewerage
This section explores the soundness of the home’s water source, water heater information, and sewage system including:
- whether drinking water comes from a public or community system or well water
- if the water does not come from a municipal source, the location and age of the well, and if tests have been performed on water and proof of those tests
- whether the home has a softener, filter, or other water purification system
- the energy source (gas, electric) and age of the water heater, and any problems
- whether the wastewater from the washing machine, dishwasher, or other appliance discharges to anything other than sewer, septic, or other system
- whether the sewage is carried away from the home with a private or public sewage system, septic system, or cesspool
- if there’s an active cesspool or septic system, the date of its installation and last maintenance and its location on the property
- awareness of any shut off, disconnected, or abandoned wells, underground water or sewage tanks, or dry wells on the property, and whether they were closed in accordance with municipal rules
- any leaks, backups, or other problems relating to any of the plumbing systems and fixtures (including pipes, sinks, tubs, and showers), or any other water or sewage-related problems
Heating and air conditioning
Besides documenting the age and last maintenance date of the air conditioner, heater/furnace, or combined HVAC unit, this section reviews the home’s heating and cooling systems including whether:
- some sections of the home are without air conditioning or heating
- the air conditioning is provided by window units, a central system, or in zones
- there’s centralized heating or individual zones
- the heat is generated by electricity, propane, fuel oil, natural gas, etc.
- the heat is forced air, hot water or baseboard, radiator, steam heat
- any above or underground tanks used to store fuel or other substances and a closure certificate if the tank is no longer in use
Wood-burning stoves or fireplaces
If the home has a fireplace, wood-burning stove, or insert, this section offers sellers the opportunity to verify the fireplace’s functionality, necessary permits, and recent maintenance records.
This section describes the:
- wiring (copper, aluminum, etc.)
- amp service (60, 100, etc.)
- presence of circuit breaker and/or fuses
- any wall switches, light fixtures, or electrical outlets in need of repair
- information about whether additional work has been properly permitted and the name and address of an electrician who completed the job
Land (soil, drainage, and boundaries)
This section seeks to explore whether the land and property itself have been or are currently subject to adverse conditions. Besides asking whether the owner has a survey of the property, the questions ask whether the sellers are aware of:
- fill or expansive soil on the property
- past or present mining operations on the property
- whether the property is located in a flood hazard zone
- drainage or flood problems affecting the property
- areas of the property designated as protected wetlands
- encroachments, utility easements, boundary line disputes, or drainage or
other easements affecting the property
- water retention basins on the property or the adjacent properties
- any part of the property is claimed by the State of New Jersey as land
presently or formerly covered by tidal water (riparian claim or lease grant)
- shared or common areas (for example, driveways, bridges, docks, walls, bulkheads, etc.) or maintenance agreements regarding the property
Besides asking questions, this section asks sellers to attach documentation showing whether they are aware of:
- receiving written notification from any public agency or private concern regarding the property being adversely affected now or in the future by a condition that exists on — or in the vicinity of — this property
- any condition on or in the vicinity of the property that now, previously, or could in the future adversely affect the quality or safety of the air, soil, water, and/or physical structures present on this property
- underground storage tanks (UST) or toxic substances now or previously present on this property or adjacent property (structure or soil), such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), solvents, hydraulic fluid, petro-chemicals, hazardous wastes, pesticides, chromium, thorium, lead, or other hazardous substances in the soil
- whether the property has been tested for the presence of any other toxic substances, such as lead-based paint, urea-formaldehyde foam insulation, asbestos-containing materials, or others
- any underground storage tank has been tested
- whether their property is in a designated Airport Safety Zone
Deed restrictions, special designations, homeowners associations/condominiums, and co-ops
This section discusses potential limitations for the use of the property due to permission required by other organizations.
For example, the section explores whether the property is subject to being located within a designated historic district, protected area such as the New Jersey Pinelands, or being subject to legal authorities other than typical local zoning ordinances.
If the property is part of a condominium or other common interest ownership plan, this section examines whether the seller is aware of:
- any defect, damage, or problem with any common elements or common areas that materially affect the property
- conditions or claims which may result in an increase in assessments or fees
- changes to the association’s rules or by-laws that impact the property
It also indicates whether the property owner is:
- subject to covenants, conditions, or restrictions
- required to belong to a condominium association or homeowners association, or other similar organization or property owners
- required to pay dues or assessments
The section focuses on whether the sellers are aware of:
- existing or threatened legal action affecting the property or their condominium or homeowners association
- violations of federal, state, or local laws or regulations relating to this property
- zoning violations, encroachments on adjacent properties, non-conforming uses, or set-back violations
- unpaid public improvement, condominium, or homeowner association assessments
- zoning, housing, building, safety, or fire ordinance violations
- mortgages, encumbrances, or liens
- obstacles that would prevent the seller from conveying a clear title
- material defects to the property, dwelling, or fixtures that are not disclosed elsewhere on this form
- fees sellers pay on an ongoing basis with respect to this property (such as garbage collection fees) other than water and sewer charges, utility and cable TV fees, local property taxes, any special assessments, and any association dues or membership fees
This section allows the sellers to waive or maintain their right to confidentiality if the property has been tested and treated for radon.
If they waive that right, the sellers supply appropriate reports and disclose whether they are aware of whether the property:
- has been tested for radon gas
- has radon remediation equipment on site currently and if that equipment is in good working order.
- has been treated in an effort to mitigate the presence of radon gas
Major appliances and other items
This section specifies what major appliances and other features exist in the home, whether they will be left and their condition including:
- working smoke detectors: number, battery type, location
- working carbon monoxide detectors: number, location, operable
- whether the in-ground pool, spa, pool heater, and above-ground pool have the proper permits, and have been inspected for leaks or defects in the filter, walls, and mechanical components
This section allows the seller to indicate whether these or other items are included in the sale and are in working order:
- electric garage door opener
- microwave oven
- trash compactor
- garbage disposal
- in-ground sprinkler system
- central vacuum system
- security system
What additional information may be needed?
Additional documentation may be requested to accompany and verify the basic form.
For example, if they are aware of an underground storage tank that has been tested, the sellers are asked to provide a copy of each test report or closure certificate.
If the sellers have lived in the property and choose not to fill out a disclosure form, they (and their agent) must still date and sign the empty form and present it to buyers (and their agent) for signature as well.
With their signatures, buyers confirm they acknowledge receipt of the information and have been “cautioned to carefully inspect the property and to carefully inspect the surrounding area for any off-site conditions that may adversely affect the property.”
The signature also attests to the buyer’s understanding that the disclosure “is not intended to be a substitute for prospective buyer’s hiring of qualified experts to inspect the property.”
Are you ready to sell or buy a home in New Jersey?
Beyond the basic disclosure regarding lead-paint hazards, New Jersey sellers are not required to fill out any disclosure forms.
However, under state law, home sellers are obligated to inform buyers about any concealed material defects in the house and on the property.
Experienced New Jersey Realtors® like Joanne Botwinick consider disclosures to be an important element of the sellers’ sales strategy.
“It makes the whole transaction and whole engagement easier and more transparent for both parties,” she explains.
And, it’s one of the many ways Realtors® add value to sales transactions.
“The goal of the Realtor® is to take stress off the seller by coming to a compromise with the buyer that creates a win-win situation for everyone,” Botwinick says.
HomeLight’s Agent Match can connect you with top-performing agents in New Jersey who have the local experience and market knowledge to successfully guide you through every step of the home-selling or buying journey —from disclosures to closing, put a top professional in your corner.
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