Death, Ghosts and Disclosure
By Russ Meyer, Managing Broker
A favorite, Internet gossip worthy question that REALTORS® occasionally face is one of ghosts, murders or other crime. Do you have to disclose if your property is haunted or a crime was committed? The short answer is yes. Thankfully, the Nebraska Real-estate Commission has provided an answer that doesn’t spook. From the Nebraska Real Estate Commission newsletter, Winter 2013 [edited for length]:
Duty to Disclose Deaths, Crimes, etc.
The license law is clear on the duty of a realtor to disclose (in writing) adverse material facts which affect the value of the property and have not been otherwise disclosed, including facts regarding the physical condition of the property as well as legal impediments affecting ownership, such as liens. However, the law is less clear on items which may have a psychological impact, such as a violent crime, a suicide that has occurred on the property, or even rumors of a house being haunted. While the Commission has not interpreted the license law to impose a duty to disclose psychological impact items, these items may (and have in other jurisdictions, in some court cases) expose a seller or lessor of property and their agent to civil liability if not disclosed.
Such a dour topic really, especially when using the phrase, ‘adverse material facts’. Here’s another, much happier thought: what if having ghosts, or owning a property where a crime occurred was a positive quirk? Does, say, owning a home that has ghosts make it more desirable to some potential buyers? What if it’s a friendly ghost that does the dishes and takes out the trash? It would clearly command a higher asking price!
What to disclose when selling your home and when to disclose that information can be a complex issue. Some of it is simple. If the furnace is broken or there has been water in the basement, REALTORS® are in agreement that those types of issues need to be disclosed. REALTORS®, however, are not legal experts. When it comes to more complicated issues like ghosts and hauntings, you should consult a lawyer.