Seller Disclosure bill amended, still has problems

HB1951, a bill making major changes to the Form 17 (Seller Disclosure), has been amended in committee to lessen its impact on consumers and the industry. As originally drafted, this bill removed the actual knowledge standard for sellers completing their disclosure statement (making a seller liable to “error, inaccuracy, or omission”), and removed the option to select “don’t know” on Form 17.

REALTORS® were understandably alarmed by HB1951. The sponsor of the bill did not consult the industry prior to introduction, abandoning 27 years of precedent concerning the Seller Disclosure law, in which industry stake holders and attorneys consult with the legislature before introducing significant changes to the Form 17.

If the provisions of HB1951 were adopted as drafted, industry experts predict that sellers would likely bypass Form 17 and instead, “require a buyer to waive the right to rescind the purchase agreement or take seller’s chances that buyer rescinds the purchase agreement prior to closing.”

Bypassing the Form 17 defeats the entire purpose of the Seller Disclosure law.

In response, Washington REALTORS® issued a call to action. This resulted in nearly 8,000 emails being sent to Washington legislators.

Early Wednesday, the Consumer Protection and Business Committee approved a revised version of the bill that does not remove the “don’t know” option on Form 17 and does not remove the actual knowledge standard on seller disclosure statements. However, a clause was added that established seller liability for “…any damage to the property from animals, including urine, feces, or other waste; chewing on wires or siding of a main structure; or digging”.

With the input of REALTORS®, legislators agreed to make changes to HB1951.

We can’t stop now. Although the worst elements of this bill have been taken out, REALTORS® remain opposed to any legislation that increases liability for sellers and risk for buyers.