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Erpenbach bill seeks to protect home buyers
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MADISON - Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Waunakee, announced Wednesday he has worked on legislation to reverse a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision last summer and restore a legal remedy for home buyers for fraud and misrepresentation when a seller lies about the property's condition.

Erpenbach and Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, worked last fall with real estate groups, home inspectors and attorneys to come up with legislative language to restore a home buyer's right to sue in cases of fraud and misrepresentation.

Last summer the Court, in the Below v Norton case, applied the judicially created "economic loss doctrine" to home purchasers who have been sold a home that the seller knew, and failed to report, had defects. Erpenbach said in a news release the decision left a void in protections to state real estate consumers.

"Immediately when the decision was handed down, I knew something needed to be done," Erpenbach said. "I don't like to buy into the 'legislate from the bench' lingo, but clearly the Below v Norton decision threw Wisconsin's home buyer protections into chaos. This bill fixes the problem."

Hansen said that, particularly in today's economy, it's important to guarantee home sellers are held accountable.

"Imagine if you are a family that has just made the biggest purchase of your life and that purchase turns into a nightmare because of a lie," Hansen said. "This bill would just restore balance to the law and give homebuyers some piece of mind as well as a legal option."