Several state and federal laws require that a home sold for habitation in Rhode Island meet specific standards for habitability and use. Additionally, home purchases are protected by common law holdings that forbid sellers from intentionally concealing or misrepresenting certain issues or defects which may exist in a home that is under contract. A state appellate court recently heard a case that was filed by the purchaser of a home against the former owners and alleged that defects in the home construction rendered the house uninhabitable and were concealed by the previous owners throughout the sale of the home.
The plaintiffs in the recently decided case purchased the defendant’s former home in March of 2013. The plaintiffs had one home inspection performed before the purchase, which found no major defects or issues relating to the home’s construction. After purchase, the plaintiffs discovered that the home, which was designed in the southern U.S., was not structurally adequate to support the snow load that the home could bear from a New England winter storm. The plaintiffs sought relief from the defendants, alleging both intentional and negligent misrepresentation of the fact that the home was defective, as well as a breach of contract, among other claims.
After a 15-day trial, the district court determined that the defendants were not liable for the plaintiffs’ claims. First, the court found that the defendants did not have any knowledge of the defects, and having lived in the house for over ten years before selling it without incident, could not have intentionally or negligently misrepresented any defects which neither they nor the building inspectors had discovered. The court further ruled that the defendants did not breach their contract and acted with good faith throughout the proceedings. On appeal, the state high court found that all of the district court’s conclusions were based on sound evidence and valid interpretations of the relevant law. As a result of the appellate decision, the plaintiffs will not be entitled to any relief for their discovery that the home they purchased is structurally deficient for the climate where it is located.