What Details Must Be Disclosed When Buying a Home?
During the sale of the home, there are rules that govern what information is required to be shared with home buyers. Most laws require the disclosure of material facts about the home, which can include any structural issues, mold and mildew, the accurate total square footage of the home, and any other items that may impact the value of the home. Of course, most laws do not require sellers to disclose non-material facts – or facts that do not necessarily impact the value of the home.
With Halloween, one question that home buyers may have is whether or not sellers are required to disclose paranormal activity or disturbing history in the home.
Florida Disclosure Rules
Florida law requires home buyers to receive a disclosure summary of property taxes prior to the purchase of the home. While Florida statutes are silent with regard to the disclosure of other information, the Supreme Court of Florida stepped in and established a rule to provide more protection to buyers. Originally, if there were a problem with a home, a buyer only had a remedy if the seller made an affirmative misrepresentation of material facts. If a buyer simply did not mention material facts that might discourage home buyers from completing the purchase, the home buyer had no remedy, since silence was not considering a “misrepresentation.” In 1985, the Florida Supreme Court created a cause of action for nondisclosure. Under the rule, a home seller would be liable to home buyers for failing to disclose material facts about the home. Thus, with this rule, sellers have a duty to disclose material facts about the home prior to the sale.
Death on Property
There are a number of infamous houses across the country that are associated with frightening or tragic events that occurred there. For example, in the 1970s, a family was found murdered in a house on Long Island in New York in a tragedy that was later dubbed the “Amityville Horror.” The events inspired movies and garnered a lot of attention. However, in the midst of that attention, the home has had several subsequent residents – of course, it is unlikely that the owners failed to learn of the home’s infamous history prior to purchase.
According to Florida law, murders or deaths that took place on a property are not considered material facts and are, therefore, not required disclosures before the sale of the property. While the seller is not required under Florida law to disclose such events, the internet makes it easy for an educated home buyer to search the address of his or her potential home for any events that may make them hesitant to complete the purchase.
Some houses have a reputation that is less associated with tragic events that occurred there, but is associated more with what followed those events – haunting. For many people, visiting a haunted house can be thrilling. Companies exist in locales that boast hauntings to provide ghost tours to out-of-town guests.
However, when it comes to purchasing a home, many buyers may want to know if their home has a reputation or a history of being haunted. For one, owners might be frightened to move in. For another, if the reputation is well known, owners might fear that the home’s value would be impacted by its reputation and that they may have difficulty selling the home in the future.
The quintessential case on this issue is Stambovsky v. Ackley, a case decided in 1991 by the Supreme Court of New York’s Appellate Division. The Court found that the home seller was required to disclose the home’s paranormal activity due to the fact that he had taken great care to cultivate the home’s representation as a haunted house, and created a condition that impacted the value of the property.
While there is no specific Florida law or statute addressing the disclosure of paranormal activity or hauntings of a home, depending on the nature of the issue, such activity may be considered material (if, for example, it impacts the value of the home) and therefore may be required to be disclosed.
If you have questions about what disclosures are required about the home that you are buying or selling, contact the experienced Florida attorneys at Carnal & Mansfield, P.A. for a consultation today.