Suing for Latent Defects in a Home Purchase in Georgia

Purchasing a home may be one of the most rewarding, yet terrifying transactions that a consumer can make in their lifetime.  It is universally understood for many of us that it is the single largest purchase we will ever make.  A commitment this large can make even the most self-assured buyer uneasy. 

Obvious defects in a home are not as worrisome in this case, as cracked walls and non-working electricity are straightforward to diagnose.  Issues that are less obvious are the ones that keep the would be purchaser up late at night.  These issues are referred to as “latent defects”.  Latent defects are those problems with property that are not visible to the naked eye.  These issues can be wide ranging, like asbestos in older homes, corroded piping that leads to a plumbing leak, or carbon monoxide leaking into the home.

In Georgia, like many states, the seller is required to provide disclosures of all known defects, obvious or not.  The purpose is to inform the cautious buyer of any issues that they may incur, and to avoid purchasing a home with such defects that they will have to fix.  Of course, while this is the law, this is not always followed to the extent a purchaser would like.

What happens when you have bought a home, only to find that latent defects exist and the seller failed to inform you?  While it is an uphill battle, you certainly do have options.  While you cannot seek remedy from everyone involved, there are a select few parties you can seek recourse from:

The Seller – As mentioned above, the seller in Georgia is required to provide disclosures on the home.  This disclosure requires the seller to provide a list of defects on the home that they are aware of, but may not be obvious.  While a seller may later deny that they knew about this, patchwork on drywall found after purchase where a leak has formed is an obvious sign that the seller knew there was an issue.

The Sellers agent – similar to the seller, the agent must disclose when asked of any defects on the home, and while their duties are limited, depending on the circumstances they may be on the hook as well.

The home inspector – While Georgia does not require inspections on the purchase of a home, a prudent purchaser will always have one conducted.  The inspector is a trained individual, who is well versed in home construction and accordingly has a higher aptitude for uncovering these issues.  Depending on the issue, a home inspector may be liable for missing it in their inspection of the home.

So now, you have a latent defect, and there is a responsibility for the parties that have not been met, but do you have a case?  There are certain conditions that need to be met before you can proceed. 

Was the defect there before you bought the home?  General wear and tear on the home is not actionable if the loss merely occurs under your ownership, however if the condition was pre-existing then you should be ok to proceed.  Is it a non-obvious defect that was not disclosed, but a prior party was aware of?  In the example above, plumbing may not always be an obvious issue, but if you later find steps have been taken to repair and conceal, and you relied on the non-disclosure of those parties, this condition will have been met.  Finally, the harmed purchaser must prove damages.  Is there an actual cost of repair, or a decrease in the home’s value as a result of the defect?  This will be what your claim in a lawsuit amounts to.

There are a number of legal theories that you can bring against the responsible parties depending on the situation.  It is recommended to review your case with a qualified attorney beforehand to ensure you are bringing an action on the correct theory.  Some of these claims include failure to disclose, negligence, fraud, breach of contract, breach of warranty, and negligent misrepresentation.

If you have recently purchased a home and discover a latent defect, but are unsure of your options, give us a call!  Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys pride themselves on their expertise in the real estate law arena and will fight to get you the recourse that you deserve.  Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-784-4150.

Home Owners: Obtaining Recourse in Georgia from a Failed Home Inspection

Whether you are purchasing your first home or your fiftieth, one of the most important steps in the purchase process is hiring a home inspector.  This inspector will be the one to tell you whether the dream house you recently went under contract on is structurally sound, or contains issues that no longer qualify it as a dream home at all.

Most of us rely on these inspectors to catch every minor detail; after all, that is why you hired them in the first place!  However, what do we do when we have done our research, hired the best inspector we can find, yet defects in the home are still missed?  After all, there is nothing worse than an inspection stating the home you just purchased is in great shape, only to move in and find out that your foundation needs emergency repair, at a great cost.

In the state of Georgia, before immediately taking your grievance to the home inspector, you may have a better claim against the seller.  Although Georgia follows the mantra of “Buyer Beware”, there is a general duty in the state to disclose to would be buyers known defects within the house, especially if they are not easily discoverable.  Sellers could face liability to the buyer for failing to disclose these material defects, so long as it is provable that the defects were known.

Assuming that the seller was not aware of the defect, or there is no proof of fraudulent concealment on their part, then you can look to the home inspector for relief.  There are two general theories to obtain relief from a home inspector from a botched inspection.  Outlined below, these theories are Negligence and Breach of Contract.

Negligence, in any area of the law is generally the failure to act as a reasonable person as someone similarly situated would do.  In this case, if a different home inspector catches the issue at hand (which can be proven by getting a second opinion), then the original home inspector can be found negligent.  The state of Georgia requires all home inspectors to go through in depth training in order to be licensed, so lack of training is no defense.  One thing to consider is that the inspector is only liable to defects within the scope of the inspection.  If the house does not have running water on the day of inspection, the inspector cannot be liable for defects regarding the plumbing in the home.

Breach of Contract becomes a viable claim when the contract that you entered into with a home inspector contains language that you believe was clearly violated.  This could arise when you specifically negotiated to include tests for lead based paint, the inspection came back clean, and you later find evidence pointing to lead based paint in your home.  If you have a contract in writing with the inspector to perform any review, and you can prove that the review was never in fact completed, this would be the proper avenue for legal recourse.

Assuming that you have a valid claim based on the two legal theories above, there are still items to consider.  The home inspector may have inserted a waiver into the contract called an exculpatory clause.  This clause is common among home inspectors, and generally serves to limit liability in the event that defects in the home are uncovered after inspection.  Instead of being on the hook to replace a whole roof, they may simply attempt to refund the home inspection fee.  They may also have an arbitration or mediation provision, which would make it more difficult to file a lawsuit as a first step.

In summary, a failed home inspection in Georgia does not always leave the buyer out in the cold.  There are several avenues to recover losses in the instance that your home inspection did not uncover material defects in your home.  If you are not sure whether you have an actionable case, you should consult with an attorney before taking any action.

If you have questions regarding a home inspection gone wrong, give us a call!  Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys have represented Georgia home buyers seek legal recourse for defects in their homes not caught by the home inspection.  Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-784-4150 to discuss how we can help you today!

Bank Fraud, Phishing and Checksystems Case

Phishing is a cybercrime in which a target or targets are contacted by email, telephone or text message by someone posing as a legitimate institution to lure individuals into providing sensitive data such as personally identifiable information, banking and credit card details, and passwords. The information is then used to access important accounts and can result in identity theft and financial loss. Everyone makes mistakes. Customers make mistakes. Banks make mistakes. Statistics show that phishing generally occurs when someone least expects it. We have found that it is becoming more and more commonplace for online institutions to request sensitive information from customers in order to proceed with transactions.

Several of the institutions researched by this firm do this on a regular basis and legally work, on this basis, with large banks and financial institutions. So, as of 2018, a precedent has been set. While most “old school” customers would never give out sensitive information such as online banking user id’s and passwords, many younger customers are readily doing so for a number of reasons that include, but are not limited to, obtaining credit cards and loans. Simply put, the new “tech savvy” generation is more familiar with doing transactions online than simply approaching an established bank or lending institution.

In a recent case, a customer was approached by an online institution with an apparently known name and legitimate email address. Information was provided. The customer’s bank called days later and informed him or her that they were shutting down their account and reporting them to ChexSystems for fraud because several counterfeit checks had been deposited into their account by “mobile banking.” Chex Systems, Inc. (ChexSystems) is a nationwide specialty consumer reporting agency under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). ChexSystems’ clients regularly contribute information on closed checking and savings accounts. ChexSystems provides services to financial institutions and other types of companies that have a permissible purpose under the FCRA. ChexSystems’ services primarily assist its clients in assessing the risk of opening new accounts. https://www.chexsystems.com. In this case, no investigation was made as to who actually committed the fraud and now the customer cannot open up any account at that institution ever again and also is blocked from opening up a new account with another bank. The customer had never even used mobile banking before.

Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys are well versed in bank fraud litigation and phishing scams.  Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-784-4150 to discuss how we can assist you.

Georgia Small Business Debt Collection Suggestions

Georgia Small Business Debt Collection:  It is no secret that the key to running a successful business is a healthy bottom line.  Businesses need profits to continue operating, paying their bills, and their employees.  For small businesses especially, every little bit counts, and it is important to keep an eye on everything coming in and going out.  This is why it can be especially devastating to small business owners when customers do not pay their invoices on time.  These delinquencies can create solvency issues for the business that may ultimately threaten its own ability to pay bills on time.

Some degree of invoice delinquency is simply unavoidable.  Be it a dispute regarding the service performed, solvency issues on behalf of the customer, or just people looking for a free ride – certain customers just do not pay their bills.  There are certainly means to address these customers, but there are also steps you can take as a small business in Georgia to minimize delinquent invoice accounts.

Keep your cool.  It is a natural reaction to become hostile with a customer who will not pay their bill after you have performed a valid service.  While you have every right to be frustrated, taking it out on the customer will be of no service in getting that bill paid.  Once hostility is introduced to the matter at hand, cooperation likely goes out the window.

Stay Organized.  This is critical in dealing with overdue invoices from a customer.  Businesses need to have great documentation of outstanding receivables, including each invoice delivered and the respective due date.  It should also monitor each time the customer received correspondence from the business, and the means by which this was done (mail, email, or phone).  Debt collection law in Georgia can be complicated, and keeping records like this will ultimately help down the road should the dispute turn into a lawsuit.

Remain Diligent.  While you may feel that you are at the mercy of the client, remember that this is a valid debt.  While remaining respectful, you should use every tool at your disposal to be paid for the work you have performed.  Regularly contact the customer.  It may be an honest mistake at first, and simply reminding the customer of the bill does the trick.  This can be done via a quick phone call or resending of the invoice.  If this does not work, you can institute a deadline for payment.

Know your options.  If you have followed all of the steps above and still gotten nowhere, it may be time to hire some help.  Many debts in Georgia can be considered delinquent after 90 days, at which point it is possible to take legal action.  Introducing a collections attorney can help to navigate the legalities of debt collection while turning up the pressure on the delinquent client.  If all else fails, this attorney can file a lawsuit for the debt.  An experienced attorney will be able to walk you through all of the necessary requirements for taking action of last resort.

If you have questions regarding a delinquent debt for your Georgia business and need some answers, let us help!  Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys are qualified in the State of Georgia to collect debts on behalf of their clients.  Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-784-4150 to discuss how we can help you and your organization collect on your receivables and delinquent debts.

Collecting on your Georgia Commercial Debt through Garnishments

As a creditor in Georgia, and especially one experiencing delinquent debts, your first objective is to pursue any legal means to obtain satisfaction of the debt owed to you.

Lawyer Atlanta GA

There are many ways for creditors to collect this delinquent debt, with varying degrees of difficulty, all of which depend on how hard the debtor intends to fight payment.

The easiest and most commonly adopted approach involves the use of a qualified attorney or debt collection agent.  This individual or entity will begin by sending either a demand letter or otherwise attempting to contact the delinquent debtor to amicably resolve the debt and get the creditor paid.  Unfortunately, this approach has mixed success.

More common in Commercial debt collection matters, due to the sophistication of parties, and contractual nature of the agreements, the creditor must go to court and receive judgement on delinquent debt in their favor, which then entitles them to act in regards to compel payment.  This judgement is a declaration by the court that the debt is valid, and the creditor can now seek to enforce the debt.

The most common tool used by these newly appointed “Judgement-Creditors” is Garnishment.  Georgia Garnishment Law is found in Title 18 Chapter 4 Article 4 of the Georgia Code, and follows the federal rules generally.  Specifics on the process can be found in OCGA 18-4-4 which outlines the process and period of Garnishments in the state.  There are two ways to enact a garnishment on a delinquent debt once judgment has been granted or the debt otherwise perfected.

The most common of these is a Summons of Garnishment, or simply a bank garnishment.  If a bank is served with this garnishment, they must immediately place a hold on the debtors account and may to the court all funds on deposit at the time of service, plus any additional funds that may be deposited into the account within the next 30 days.  After this thirty-day period, the garnishment is no longer in place.

Although less common, Georgia also allows the perfected creditor to garnish a debtor’s wages by way of a Continuing Garnishment.  After receiving service of a Continuing Garnishment, the employer of the delinquent debtor must pay into the court 25% of the debtor’s net take home pay.  This garnishment remains in place for the lesser of 180 days or the full extent of the debt has been satisfied.  Georgia also allows for renewal of this garnishment, but it must be again filed with the court.

Garnishments are generally filed in the Magistrate Court in the county for which the garnishee is physically located.  Costs may vary county to county, but are typically around $50 for filing, plus the cost for summons of service.

If you have questions regarding a delinquent debt of any kind and are at a loss for how to move forward with collecting it, let us help!  Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys are qualified in the State of Georgia to collect debts on behalf of their clients.  Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-784-4150 to discuss how we can help you and your organization collect on your receivables and delinquent debts.

Thrift & McLemore Launches Commercial Collections Practice Area

Atlanta, GA – We are pleased to announce the launch of our Commercial Collections practice area.  Our new practice area specializes in handling commercial collections claims in commercial debt recovery and litigation.  Thrift & McLemore’s Commercial Collections practice includes open accounts, unsecured and secured loans, credit cards, automobile loans, student loans, foreign judgments, real property foreclosures and commercial claims.   We represent commercial creditors, financial institutions, government entities, insurance companies, service organizations and certain individuals in recovering commercial loans.

Thrift & McLemore is proud of our record of service to business clients.  The breadth and scope of our practice encompasses:

  • Sale of goods disputes
  • Dealer disputes
  • Distributor disputes
  • Collection on letters of credit
  • Issuing demand letters
  • Bankruptcy workouts
  • Litigation
  • Collection on business agreement defaults
  • Attachments
  • Garnishments

Working together, the location of tangible assets, existing contracts and employment, bank accounts, equity in inventory and other assets, may be located and serve as a basis for recovery.  We are dedicated to the proposition of being a vital part of a client’s credit and recovery.

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