The general law of the sale of property is caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) and buyers are under a general duty to inspect their purchase before taking possession. However, it is understood at law that inspection is often not sufficient to detect certain deficiencies in the product that can only be discovered through destructive testing or other means that a seller could not reasonably be expected to allow under normal conditions. For example, wood beams and interior brickwork often cannot be fully assessed without destructive testing, and it would be unreasonable for the seller to allow the buyer to destroy part of the property in order to discover such defects.
As such, the law expects that buyers will protect themselves in the sales contract against defects they cannot possibly be expected to assess prior to purchase. As such, the term "latent defect" is often used as part of the guarantee clauses in a sales contract so that the buyer can recover damages from the seller if defects turn up in the property after the sale. For example, the seller may be required to pay for repairs of any such damage.