Q: I have a prospective client who is interested in selling a condo. I reviewed documents from the seller regarding the condo building, and they indicate the presence of asbestos in the building. What is the seller’s obligation to disclose? And, if I represent the seller, what would be my obligation to disclose?

A: The Virginia Code imposes different duties on licensees than on sellers themselves. According to § 54.1-2131 of the code, a real estate licensee must disclose all material adverse facts about the physical condition of the property which are known to the licensee. Here, the presence of asbestos is an adverse fact about the property’s physical condition. Now that the licensee is aware of that fact, the licensee would have a duty to disclose it.

An unrepresented seller, however, has no such obligation. Per § 55.1-703 of the Virginia Code, a seller must only put prospective buyers on notice that no representations about the physical condition of the property are being made. In other words, the duty is on the buyer to discover adverse facts about the physical condition of the property, not on the seller to disclose them.

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