LEGAL CORNER: What is a home seller required to disclose?

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QUESTION: With all the school shootings that I see in the news, I get terrified every time I drop my children off at school. Has our state or parish done anything to provide our children with protection while they are at school?

ANSWER: Yes, the Sheriff's Office acted on this matter some time ago by creating what is known as The School Resource Officer Program.

The Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office has twenty-eight school resource officers covering twenty-five schools in the parish. The officers are assigned to a school to be a direct link between the school and any issue that may need the assistance of law enforcement.

If you have questions about the program or have any issues you wish to address about a specific issue at school, you can e-mail mwalker@cpso.com. Your question will be given to the officer assigned to the school and a response sent to you.

Additionally, you can learn more by visiting the Sheriff's office's website here.

You can find KPLC's story on the announcement earlier this year here

QUESTION: I am buying a home from an individual in Lake Charles who is not using a realtor. I have looked at all the specifications of the home and some of the property structures and the foundations look sketchy at best. I know I cannot make the seller disclose any problems but is he required by law to do so?

ANSWER: Absolutely! If the property is residential, and the buyer is a traditional, third-party buyer (not a co-owner, or heir, or business etc.) then, in most cases, there should be a property disclosure form made available to you prior to the purchase. This is a form which is presented by the seller to the purchaser discloses, at a minimum, known defects in the residential real property. The disclosure is to include but not be limited to important information about he property (i.e. is there a home owners association, was there ever an illegal meth lab on the property, is there a salt dome cavity underneath the property, has the property been zoned commercial etc.). If the Property Disclosure Document is delivered after the BUYER makes an offer, the BUYER can terminate any resulting real estate contract or withdraw the offer for up to 72 hours after receipt of the Property Disclosure Document. This termination or withdrawal will be without penalty to the BUYER and any deposit or earnest money must be promptly returned to the BUYER (despite any agreement to the contrary).

You can find a copy of the property disclosure form here.

In Louisiana Revised Statute 9:3198 and its progeny are generally known as the RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY DISCLOSURE Chapter of the Revised Statues. As used in this Chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings hereinafter ascribed to them:

QUESTION: I recently received a citation for texting while driving. When I got pulled over I was not on the phone, someone had called me in as a possible intoxicated driver because I was driving poorly when I was using the phone. Why was it ok for the person to use the phone to call the police but I could not call my wife?

ANSWER: Louisiana has several different distracted driving laws. Some overlap, but generally, the laws prohibit texting and interacting with social media for all drivers, and prohibit talking on a cellphone for certain drivers and talking on the cell phone in certain locations for all drivers. Louisiana's distracted driving laws prohibit all drivers from operating a vehicle while using a wireless telecommunication device to write, send, or read a text-based communication or engage in a call while in a school zone and during posted school hours.

You can find the law here.

Exceptions: Louisiana's distracted driving laws contain a number of exceptions. These include: device use by emergency services personnel in the discharge of official duties using a GPS (global positioning system), and reporting emergencies and criminal activity. Fines. For a first violation, the motorist is looking at up $500 in fines. A second or subsequent violation carries a 60-day license suspension and up to $1,000 in fines. And if a violation involves a collision, the fines are doubled. Restrictions on Drivers with Learner's and Intermediate Licenses Motorists who hold a class E learner's or intermediate license are prohibited from using a cellphone while driving unless the motorist is using hands-free technology.

Exceptions. The learner's and intermediate license restriction doesn't apply to calls made to report an emergency or criminal activity. Penalties. For a first violation, the motorist faces a maximum $500 fine. A second or subsequent violation carries up to $1,000 in fines. And if a violation involves a collision, the fines are doubled. Restrictions for Underage Drivers For motorists who are under the age of 18, it's illegal to text or talking on a cellphone while operating a vehicle. Exceptions. The underage cellphone and texting ban doesn't apply to reporting emergencies and criminal activity. Penalties. For a first violation, the motorist faces a maximum $250 fine. A second or subsequent violation carries a 60-day license suspension and up to $500 in fines. For violations involving accidents, the fines are doubled.

Disclaimer: The information furnished in this answer is general and may not apply to some situations. All legal situations are unique. No one should rely to their detriment on these answers. Anyone with a potential legal problem should seek the advice of a licensed attorney before taking any action or inaction. The answers provided are not intended to be specific legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created between the SWLA Law Center and the viewers of KPLC-TV.

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