Consider this my morbid week-before-Halloween blog post.
A couple of years ago I read a disclosure package in which the sellers dutifully stated that their house is haunted. They weren’t sure who the ghost was, but if I recall correctly they thought it might have been the former owner who had died in the house about 15 years earlier. I kind of scoffed at the disclosure, but then again, who am I to say that ghosts either do or don’t exist?
I may not know if ghosts exist or not, but I do know how to advise my clients about disclosures when they’re selling their home. And while there’s no disclosure law about ghosts in California, there are rules about disclosing deaths on the property.Â What rules, you ask? There’s a question on the Real Estate Transfer Disclosure Statement that asks if there has been a death on the property in the last three years, and sellers must answer truthfully. And if a potential buyer asks about deaths on the property more than three years ago, the seller must answer that truthfully as well.
But say it’s the house where Charles MansonÂ went helter-skelter or where Nicole Brown Simpson was murdered. Many years have passed since those heinous crimes, so one might think that because it’s been more than 3 years, that a seller wouldn’t have to disclose the deaths. But that would be wrong. If the property is “stigmatized” because of the murder, the buyer needs to know that regardless of how much time has passed. Think about it: you buy a house, move in, meet your neighbors and have them ask you if it was hard to decide to buy the house where the school teacher was chopped into bits. Sellers, do the right thing, and if it’s a death of natural causes, go by the 3-year rule for disclosures. But if the house is a stop on a tour of macabre locations of murders and mayhem, disclose it no matter how much time has passed.
What about you? Would you live in a home where someone had been murdered?