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3 years ago
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We ratified a contract on a home and 2 weeks later, found out about some really disturbing events that had occured within the house. Can we get out of the contract?

As we were walking around our new house (after we had signed the contact), a neighbor approached us and told us about some pretty disturbing things that had occured in the house, as recently as 2 years ago. I'd rather not go into all the details, but there was a suicide at one point, and a homicide that occured in the house.

I'm not an overly superstitious person, but shouldn't that information have to be disclosed? I wouldn't have bought the house knowing this history- is this enough grounds for me to get out of the contract?
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3 years ago
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In most jurisdictions, this is not considered to be a "material defect" which, if it were, would have to be disclosed ('events' do not impact the livability or condition of the house itself, so they need not be disclosed). Material defects fall into two categories and, if known (reasonably) must be disclosed: (1) patent or 'obvious' defects - no roof, back yard is falling into the sea, walls are cracked, etc.; or, (2) latent or not-easily-discoverable - water leaks into the basement when there are heavy rains, settling cracks hidden under paneling, no water on the third floor if someone flushes on the first, carpentry work done to hide termite damage.

Particularly with the availability of information via the Internet, it falls upon the purchaser to discover the home's history and, if they want to, act on this prior to signing a contract if the history is of a non-material type.

By the way, a seller who had basement water problems, had them repaired, and experienced no more problems through, say, a couple of years probably need not disclose it. If they had problems 2 or 3 months ago and repaired it, they probably should but can give the buyer copies of the repair bills and tell them there has been no recurrence so the buyer has, perhaps, an opportunity to have their own inspection done to determine if they're comfortable going forward.
marc mcgee
Real Estate Professional
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3 years ago
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That's really interesting, Marc. I remember reading something about whether or not sellers had to disclose any episodes of supernatural "ghostly" activity in a house.

In one particular case in NY, a buyer sued the seller/agent for failing to disclose the haunted nature of a house. Now, the court didn't find the seller at fault for not disclosing that information, but it did let the buyer out of his contract and returned the down payment. http://www.legalzoom.com/everyday-law/home-leisure/ghoul-disclosure-must-home-sellers

If asked, would a real estate agent have to disclose the fact that a murder, suicide, or any death of a human occurred in the home or on the property? How about with super natural episodes or "hauntings" being reported?
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3 years ago
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If asked, the REA cannot lie and say "no one was ever shot here" if, in fact, someone was and he/she knew it. However, if the Seller instructed the REA not to disclose or the REA feels they shouldn't/can't disclose a non-material factor, then the REA should say "I can't disclose that" or "check with the local police department to see if the house has a history".
marc mcgee
Real Estate Professional
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3 years ago
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In Illinois an agent does not have to disclose for non-material defects, so when it comes to crimes and hauntings, etc, they are bound by the will of the seller on what they can and cannot say. However, if it was a violent crime that caused possible contamination of the site - a shooting or a meth lab, etc, (ew, gross!) it must be disclosed.

We absolutely cannot disclose anything about the HIV+ status of any of the prior occupants, though.
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