Buying a home? What does seller have to tell you?

The Klunk family thought they found the perfect home in Dillsburg – even though there were large transmission lines running behind the property.

“They were an eyesore in a way, but we didn’t really think anything of it. There is a house built here, it must be safe,” Tyler Klunk said.

When spring came around and their kids started playing in the backyard, something didn’t seem right.

“It seemed like the grass was sharp, but what was actually happening is you were getting shocked by the grass,” Klunk said.

The ABC27 Investigators contacted an electrician who suggested using a non-contact voltage tester to see if it would get a reading in the yard. The device will start beeping when it detects 50-1,000 volts AC power.

While holding the device, it started beeping just a few feet from the back of the Klunk’s deck, which is more than 75 feet from the power lines, leaving half of their backyard potentially affected by the stray voltage.

A First Energy spokesman said stray voltage is common near large transmission lines and does not pose a health risk. It can vary depending on the weather.

“Nobody told us,” Tyler said, “not our home inspector, not the people doing the appraisal, our realtors weren’t concerned about it, the previous owner didn’t mention it.”

The seller’s disclosure form used during the sale of the home doesn’t specifically ask about electromagnetic fields. It does ask if the owner was aware of any environmental concerns that may impact the property. The previous owner answered no.

“Now we have a property that we paid X-amount of dollars for that, if we ever wanted to sell, I can’t un-know what I know now about this electromagnetic field,” Tyler said. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable passing it along to the next person without sharing that information.”

The ABC27 Investigators reached out to the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors to find out what is required to be disclosed by state law.

“Pennsylvania has had a seller disclosure law since 1996,” said Hank Lerner, director of law and policy for the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors.

By law, certain questions have to be on a seller’s disclosure form. Electromagnetic fields is not included, but the law does require a seller to disclose material defects.

“A material defect is something that might have a substantial impact on the health or safety of the inhabitants or the value of the property,” Lerner said. “It is really hard to know sometimes if the seller knew something and didn’t disclose or if it was simply something they weren’t aware of at the time.”

The Klunk family tried mediation, which was required by their seller’s agreement. The Realtors Association of York and Adams Counties sent them a letter saying the case was “beyond their scope of expertise”.

“I wouldn’t have paid what I paid for the house if I had known the condition existed,” Klunk said  “That being said, I probably wouldn’t have bought it at all. That would have been a deal breaker for me.”

Here are three things you should know:

  • While the state has a standard seller’s disclosure form, the law allows you to add other questions. The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors suggests asking if the previous owner ever filed a claim with their insurance company, which could bring different issues to light.
  • Always get a home inspection and ask if they look for environmental issues. It may not be included in all inspections.
  • There is a two-year statute of limitations, so if you find a problem with your home or property after you move in, reach out to your realtor right away.

Online Resources:

Pennsylvania Association of Realtors

State Real Estate Commission/Seller Disclosure Statute 

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