Florida Court Underscores Need to Disclose Material Off-Site Conditions

Ribak, et. al., v. Centex Real Estate Corp. et al., 702 So.2d 1316.

August 1, 1998

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—A recent state court ruling highlights the responsibility of sellers to tell what they know about off-site conditions that will affect their property's value.

The District Court of Appeals of Florida, 4th District, sent a case back to a lower court for jury trial, noting that “where the seller of a home knows of facts materially affecting the value of the property which are not readily observable and are not known to the buyer, the seller is under a duty to disclose them to the buyer.”

The case involved 22 buyers who sued a residential developer for fraud, conspiracy, negligent supervision, breach of duty to disclose material facts, negligent misrepresentation, and violation of the Florida Land Sales Practices Act.

The buyers claimed that salespeople for the developer told them that an off-site facility located at the southern edgeof the development was a “water treatment plant.” The salespeople should have disclosed that the facility was a “water and wastewater treatment plant,” the buyers charged.

A lower court ruled against 18 of the buyers. On appeal, the court noted that the question of whether the omission of the word “waste” was a material misrepresentation was an issue for a jury to resolve. The case was sent back for a jury trial, which is currently pending.

Landlord Can Refuse Section 8 Tenants—Even Disabled Ones

Ribak, et. al., v. Centex Real Estate Corp. et al., 702 So.2d 1316.

NEW YORK—A landlord may decline prospective tenants receiving federal Section 8 assistance—even if some are disabled.

That was the recent decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second District. The ruling reduces the chance that landlords who don’t accept Section 8 tenants will be sued for discrimination by Section 8 recipients who are also disabled.

The lawsuit was brought by two disabled Section 8 participants who were declined tenancy in the Stratford Greens Garden Apartments in Suffolk County, N.Y. The law allows landlords to decline Section 8 participants as long as the policy is uniformly applied.

The applicants sued, charging that the federal Fair Housing Act required the landlord to make “reasonable accommodations” for disabled people and that accepting disabled people through Section 8 would have been a reasonable accommodation.

The court disagreed, saying that the law requires accommodation for actual physical handicaps, “not the alleviation of economic disadvantages that may be correlated with having handicaps.”

Salute v. Stratford Greens Garden Apartments, 1998 WL 50121 (2nd Cir., N.Y.)

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