Texas courts allow fraud claims in real estate transactions despite a non-reliance clause

May 4th, 2011 by Joseph William Singer

The states disagree about whether parties to real estate transactions can sue each other for fraud when the contract of sale contains a “non-reliance clause” stating that neither party is relying on any representations made by the other party that are not included in the written contract. Some states allow such claims on the ground that “fraud vitiates consent” and such clauses do not amount to agreements to be defrauded. But other states hold that such clauses immunize the contracting parties from claims of fraud based on oral statements made prior to the deal. The Texas Supreme Court has waffled on this issue, first holding that contracts can be avoided on the ground of fraudulent inducement, Williams v. Glash, 789 S.W.2d 261, 264 (Tex. 1990), and then ruling that the sophisticated parties are free to bargain around this rule by non-reliance clauses, Schlumberger Technology Corp. v. Swanson, 959 S.W.2d 171 (Tex. 1997). See also Forest Oil Corp. v. McAllen, 268 S.W.3d 51 (Tex. 2008). However, the court clarified in Italian Cowboy Partners, Ltd. v. Prudential Ins. Co., 2011 Tex. LEXIS 291 (Tex. 2010), that  a non-reliance clause in a real estate contract will not immunize a real estate seller from liability for fraud if it contains a “standard merger clause” which recites that no representations were made other than those in the contract. Only if the clause states that the buyer is not relying on oral statements made by the seller would the buyer be foreclosed from suing for damages for fraud or to rescind the agreement because of fraud. Another way to waive the right to sue for fraud is to do so directly by a clear statement waiving the right to sue for fraudulent inducement.

In this case, the court allowed tenants to rescind a restaurant lease and recover damages when the landlord lied about the condition of the premises which were afflicted with persistent sewer gas odor.

Posted in Leaseholds, Real estate transactions, Statute of frauds | Comments Off on Texas courts allow fraud claims in real estate transactions despite a non-reliance clause

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