Your sellers just told you they’ve learned there may have been a murder in their home in 1975. The claim hasn’t been verified, but the sellers wonder if they need to disclose this information. As the listing agent, what should you do?
Do You Have to Disclose a Murder?
Disclosing that someone died in the house varies from state to state. For example, in California you must disclose any death, natural or not, that occured within three years. Other states have their own rules for disclosing death that occured at a property.
How the death occurs may matter. Alaska and South Dakota, for example, require disclosure of murder or suicide, but only if it happened within a year. In some states, violent deaths, like murders, may fall under the category of stigmatized property.
Even in states that don’t require disclosure, make sure you and your client understand laws about answering honestly if asked.
What About a Long Ago Possible Murder?
As noted in the examples of California, Alaska, and South Dakota, there is often a limit on how long you need to disclose murder or death. This possible murder fell well beyond any of these timeframes.
In this situation, the claim hasn’t been verified, but the seller is aware that there might have been a murder. While this potential, alleged murder does not technically have to be disclosed, prudence suggests that this information should be disclosed to any potential buyers. You don’t have to include this information on the MLS, but it is better to over disclose than under disclose.
Document when this information came to light and your recommendation to the seller to disclose it to potential buyers. Disclosure and documentation can help protect you, as can adequate real estate errors and omissions insurance.
Ever Wish You Could Ask for Advice from the CRES Legal Team?
Have you ever been in a situation like this where you aren’t sure whether disclosure is required — or how to best serve your client and protect yourself? Googling isn’t enough, you want expert legal advice.
CRES real estate Errors and Omissions members can call CRES ClaimPrevent® Legal Services 7 days a week for free expert legal advice. As a member, you’ll receive a response from an experienced attorney within 4 hours or the next business day. Plus, every recommendation is confirmed in writing. It’s just one of the things we do to help clients prevent claims.
Can we help you with your real estate E&O policy? Learn more about E&O in your state.
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