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.

6 thoughts on “Ghostly tenants and the duty to disclose

  1. Years ago, when we sold a condo we’d been renting out, we had to disclose a kitchen fire the previous tenant had put out but we’d repaired so well no one could tell it had happened. Yet, had the new owner taken down the range hood and the upper cabinet, someone might have noticed scorch marks.

    I wonder if the guy who bought it from us would remember to disclose that information when he would sell the place? Unless you were take apart that side of the kitchen, you’d never know.

    • Sounds like something he might easily forget, but because it had been years earlier and properly repaired, I wouldn’t consider it a material condition that had to be disclosed. But sometimes on the home shows, you see a remodel in progress where they find horrendous damage — water damage, charred trusses in the attic, crumbling mortar in a block foundation — and I always wonder why no one ever noticed or mentioned it. No pre-purchase inspection? They’ve been living there for years and never wondered why the floor around the toilet felt soft?

  2. I don’t think they left ghosts, but I feel the seller did us wrong by not disclosing that racoons had been living in the crawl space for years! There were skeletons, too. We paid lots to have 7 of them trapped and taken away, and to seal up the access. Our real estate agent was unresponsive when we told her. Oh well. We still like the house and it’s quieter at night now without them.

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