Case Hinging on the Illinois Residential Real Property Disclosure Decided in Favor of Sellers

Under state law, any seller of residential real estate must provide the Illinois Residential Real Property Disclosure to potential buyers.  But the report, extensive as it is, does not cover everything.  Buyers must be aware of that, and perform thorough inspections to satisfy themselves before moving forward with any purchase.

As you will see in Kalkman v. Nedved, 2013 IL App (3d) 120800 (June 14, 2013) Knox Co. (McDADE), sometimes buyers learn this too late.  The Kalkmans found a lakefront home they liked, and decided to purchase it.  Their mold inspector discovered the presence of mold, but that issue was resolved between the parties.  The home inspector noted a potential problem with the windows, but it appears that the parties did not deem it serious at the time.

The buyers reviewed the Illinois Residential Real Property Disclosure, which stated, among other things, that the sellers had no knowledge of defects in the walls.  After the closing, the buyers found a number of leaks in the windows and doors.  The buyers sued the sellers, claiming such leaks should have been disclosed,  The trial court ruled in the buyers’ favor, stating that the language of the disclosure should be interpreted broadly, and that “walls” should include “doors and windows”. 

The sellers appealed and won.  The appellate court found that the statute and the disclosure should be strictly construed. The document does not mention doors and windows, only walls.  Since there was no clear case on whether a window or door was considered part of a wall, the court relied on the dictionary definition of a wall, which does not include a window or a door.  The court also stated that the legislature could have chosen to make the Illinois Residential Real Property Disclosure more detailed, but they did not. 

So the sellers won and the buyers were stuck with their leaky doors and windows.  At the end of the day, you cannot rely on any disclosures; they may not be complete, and the court has clearly indicated that it will take a strict construction of the items listed in the disclosure.  If you are concerned, make sure you conduct a detailed inspection!