Many states have laws designed to discourage false advertising statements. Wisconsin's law allows any individual who suffers monetary damages due to false advertising to sue the seller and, in many cases, recover their attorney fees.
What is a false advertising statement? False advertising is any communication, written or oral, made to the public, that is untrue, misleading or deceptive. The public includes anyone - even a single individual who does not have a "particular relationships" with the seller.
Let's take it a step at a time. Any communication is an advertisement. Say Joe is selling his home. Advertising communications include newspaper ads, internet ads, spec sheets (like a realtor's handout), the real estate condition report and oral statements, as long as the communication is made before an offer is accepted. Joe tells Lookie Lou, "I had a building permit for my deck." If Lookie Lou makes an offer and discovers there was no building permit and the deck does not meet code, Joe is liable for false advertising. If Lookie Lou has to rebuild the deck, he can recover his costs and, if Lookie Lou wins in court, his attorney fees.
What is a "particular relationship?" Most often, it is a sales contract or a previous customer relationship. If Joe has accepted Lookie Lou's offer to purchase the house, they have a particular relationship. In that case, the statute does not apply.
Another exception is puffery. Puffery is a qualitative statement, usually an exaggeration, whose truth cannot be determined. Joe is using puffery when he says "this is the best house on the block." Other examples of puffery include: "extensively remodeled," "move-in condition" and "Be the envy of the neighborhood."
For more information, write Ken Friedman or call at 920-231-1500.