The state of confusion that has surrounded the District's fledgling home-seller disclosure forms may soon end.
The form finally emerged in the D.C. Register on July 16, three months after the Seller Disclosure Act passed the D.C. Council. It applies generally to sellers owning one to four residential dwelling units, including condominiums and co-ops. But its effective date was pegged to June 8, when the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs signed off.
The retroactive date "made it difficult if not impossible for people to comply" for sales that took place before the form existed, said Diane Ruggiero, executive vice president of the Washington, D.C., Association of Realtors (WDCAR), which represents 1,600 agents. Because the law says buyers can cite the lack of the form as a reason to back out of the sale, Ruggiero said the effective date is crucial.
In response to concerns raised by the WDCAR and the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors' 6,000 members, the D.C. Corporation Counsel is pushing the effective date to 30 business days after publication of the final rule in the D.C. Register. The rule should take effect about Aug. 27, according to a letter to agents from Wayne Witkowski, deputy corporation counsel.
The retroactive date prompted anxiety among agents because of "the remote potential that sales could be jeopardized," said Keene Taylor Jr. of Taylor Real Estate Inc. in Chevy Chase. Because of the uncertainty, Taylor has asked sellers with deals made since June 8 to fill out a disclosure form voluntarily. The two real estate associations have suggested the same.
Disclosure statements have been mandatory in Maryland and Virginia for about six years. The District form asks sellers to note whether they know of defects or improvements in the property, appliances and mechanical systems and in utility lines. The questionnaire also covers other possible problems.
As in Maryland and Virginia, one option is to check off "unknown," which may exculpate sellers from lawsuits if defects are found after the sale. But Ruggiero said the District form is tougher because it does not allow for a general disclaimer of all knowledge. "We felt too many people used disclaimers" to avoid revealing known problems, she said.
The form also applies to those who sell without an agent. It costs $4 from the Consumer and Regulatory Affairs office, 941 North Capitol St. NE.