Do My Sellers Have to Disclose Dead Trees on Their Property?

Question

I am the listing agent on a property with a lot of trees.  One of the trees near the house was recently struck by lightning and died.  My Sellers believe the tree may eventually fall and asked whether they need to disclose the dead tree.

I looked at the Property Disclosure form and there doesn’t appear to be a section that covers disclosure of “dead trees.”

Does this mean my Sellers don’t have to disclose the dead tree?

Answer

Great question.  I’m sure if we think hard enough, we’ll probably come up with several other “property issues” that are not covered by the Louisiana Residential Property Disclosure form (“Property Disclosure form”).

The short answer to your question is “No.”

Even though the Property Disclosure form does not have a specific section regarding “disclosure of dead trees” this does not relieve Sellers of their obligation to disclose the dead tree.

Please see the last page of the Property Disclosure form wherein the following paragraph is placed right above the signature lines:

All SELLERS are required to make written disclosure of known defects regarding a property being transferred. I/We attest that the above statements and explanations have been provided by me/us and are true and correct to the best of my/our knowledge. (If either party is represented by a real estate licensee, your signature below acknowledges that you have been informed of your duties and rights under LSA-R.S. 9:3196-3200 and have read and understand the informational statement.)

 

So, clearly Sellers must disclose all known defects concerning the property.

This begs the question:  is a “dead tree” a known defect that must be disclosed?

The quick answer to this question is, “Yes.”

According to Louisiana Revised Statutes 9:3196(1) “Known defect” means a condition found within the property that was actually known by the seller and that results in any of the following:

(a) Has a substantial adverse effect on the value of the property.

(b) Significantly impairs the health or safety of future occupants of the property.

(c) If not repaired, removed, or replaced, significantly shortens the expected normal life of the premises.

 

If the dead tree falls, it could kill someone (literally).  I think that qualifies the dead tree as “significantly impairing the health or safety of future occupants of the property.”  Thus, the dead tree must be disclosed.

But how do you disclose the dead tree on a form that doesn’t have a section to disclose the dead tree?

I’m sure there are several different ways to accomplish this, but one way would be to check the box that says “Additional Sheet is Attached” at the end of Section 1 entitled “Land” and/or Section 6 entitled “Miscellaneous” and then attach a separate sheet to the Property Disclosure form wherein the Sellers disclose as much information concerning the dead tree as possible.