I was asked a very good question about disclosure of a death in a property. Below is the question and my answer.
I want to list my house for sale. There was a death in the house and I want to know if it is mandatory that this information be devulged to perspective buyers. The death occured 9 years ago and I am wondering how long people have to be reminded of it.
If your response is that it is mandatory, then my questions would be:
1) For how many years?
2) When would it need to be mentioned? (Certainly not to everyone who comes through the doors)
3) To whom, would you have to mention it to.
Please note that I have been advised by my lawyer that there is no such law that it needs to be mentioned but am being told otherwise by realtors. I need to know if it is up to the realtor's discretion.
Thank you J.
Thank you for your real estate inquiry. This is a very good question and one that people have debated for years.
There is no single correct answer on this issue.
Yes, your lawyer is correct, there is no law in place. The "law" for us realtors is that we must disclose any material facts that affect the market value of the property.
When there is a death in the house and depending upon the circumstances of the death, this can be a tricky situation. People pass away in their homes all the time and there is never any mention of it.
The root of the issue is that if there was a death in the house (or some other incident) that would materially affect the market value of the house today. Without knowing the circumstances of your situation, 9 years is a long time and unless it's a famous house for one reason or another or if you think that the death 9 years ago still affects the market value today and if the neighbours would still feel and talk about the death 9 years later and if the death was such that it affects the value of the house, then you may have to disclose it. Otherwise, I would not think that you do not need to disclose the death.
As far as I have been taught and told, you are not required or "obligated by law" to disclose anything about a property that may be a "stigmatized" property where there has been a death, murder or suicide or the house is "haunted". but if you/we are asked about these things, you/I must honestly answer any inquiries.
Another thing for you to think about is this.
- If we sell the house and it closes and a month later the buyer finds out about this death, do you think that the buyer would feel that we should have disclosed the death 9 years ago?
- Do you think that the buyer's decision to purchase the house would have been any different had the buyer known about the death before they submitted their offer?
For example, I had a listing where the woman hung herself in the garage of the house. It was all over the news at the time and we had to disclose the fact that she did this at the time of the listing. The house was listed again about 6 years later and there was no mention of the death in the house. I feel that's a reasonable amount of time where it no longer materially affects the market value and disclosure was not necessary.
Again, there is no law in Ontario that I know of that forces you to disclose a death in a house. If it was a suspicious death and after the closing if the buyer may feel that he or she was deceived then they could initiate a lawsuit. Of course, anyone anytime can initiate a law suit in a real estate purchase if they feel they were deceived by non disclosure.
I also think that you should consult with your lawyer on all issues such as these that you are unsure about.
Please let me know if you have any other questions or if there is anything else I can help you with.
Thank you again for contacting me and I will do my best to help you with your real estate needs,
A. Mark Argentino P. Eng. Broker
Specializing in Residential & Investment Real Estate