When purchasing a home, the purchaser should be aware that the doctrine of “Caveat Emptor” or “let the buyer beware” generally applies to the sale of a property. The purchaser has an obligation to inspect the property and to make inquiries to the vendor prior to the purchase and cannot complain afterwards about defects that could have been discovered.
After the sale, the purchaser must accept all defects which could have been discovered by a routine inspection. These are called patent defects. For this reason, it is wise, if not imperative, for a purchaser to have a house inspection as condition of purchasing a property and make inquiries of the vendor of possible defects.
Although the general rule is caveat emptor for patent defects, a vendor may be found liable for a patent defect if he or she is found to have taken steps to conceal the patent defect from the purchaser or taken steps to mislead the purchaser from making further inquiries. However, if the defect would have been visible on an ordinary inspection, the doctrine of caveat emptor applies.
By contrast, latent defects are those that could only have been discovered by making inquiries of the vendor before entering into the purchase of the property, i.e. not discoverable through an inspection. A vendor is under an obligation to disclose to the purchaser any latent defects that renders the property unfit for habitation or unsafe. If the vendor does not disclose the defect, he or she may be found liable to the purchaser. For this reason, a vendor will want to protect himself or herself by keeping documentation confirming the disclosure of latent defects and concealed patent defects.