Jail Time for Lying on Seller Disclosures

jailSellers in Spring Hill, Florida were convicted of wire fraud by a federal jury and face the possibility of up to 20 years in prison.

According to Florida Realtors® the evidence presented at trial proved that the Sellers discovered a sinkhole beneath their home in 2009. The Sellers filed a claim with their insurance carrier – Citizens Property Insurance Co. Citizens offered to make the necessary repairs or issue a settlement check in the amount of $153,745.37. The Sellers chose to take the settlement check and rather than make the necessary repairs they made minor cosmetic repairs hiding the sinkhole problem.

In 2013 they listed the home for sale and intentionally failed to disclose the sinkhole problem and insurance claim. The home was sold to a family with five children who discovered the sinkhole problem and filed a claim with their insurance carrier – Citizens. This time Citizens inspects the home and denies the claim because of the ongoing sinkhole problem. In March of this year the floor began cracking and they were forced to evacuate their home.

The sentencing hearing has been set for January 11, 2016. It is highly unlikely that they will be sentenced to 20 years, if they are first time offenders, however even if they are only sentenced to probation I think the Sellers will agree that this is experience was certainly not worth the money. In any event I will update this blog and let you know how much time they get.

This case should serve as a warning to Sellers to be more careful when they are filling out the Seller Disclosures. It should also remind Realtors and lawyers how important it is to not fill out the Seller Disclosures for your clients. Make sure they fill it out themselves. You don’t want to be caught in a situation where the Seller tries to shift the blame to you.