Ghostly tenants and the duty to disclose

ghosts2Missed getting this up in time for Halloween, but hey, it’s never too late to talk ghosts, vampires, and other such things.

According to the Washington State Bar blog, NW Sidebar, a New York court held in 1991 that the would-be buyer of a house was entitled to rescind the transaction when he learned that the house had a reputation of being haunted — a fact the sellers had not disclosed, despite having publicized the house’s haunting in local news sources and even in Readers’ Digest.

In my opinion, a seller who knows that his house is thought to be haunted — whether or not he believes it, or has ever publicized the place as having supernatural occupants — should disclose it, or risk a suit to rescind the transaction for failure to disclose or for misrepresentation. Standard real estate disclosure forms in most states require disclosure of crimes or deaths the seller knows occurred on the property, and some require disclosure of the seller’s knowledge of registered sex offenders living in the vicinity. I’ve never heard of a Ghost Disclosure form. But many states also require sellers to disclose any material facts about the property, particularly those not obvious on inspection. A ghost or a ghostly reputation may not be (sorry) material in the same way as a boundary dispute or a leaky roof, but it is exactly the sort of thing that could affect a potential buyer’s decision. So, in my opinion, failure to disclose could come back to haunt you.

Photo from MorgueFile free photos.