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Did someone die in this house?  Three Important Points to Consider

This may be a taboo subject, but it is a question I am asked all the time when acting as a buyer’s agent.  I suppose Halloween is the best time to try to deal with it.  I know everyone has different feelings about death, but it is peculiar to me that when you ask most people where they would prefer to die, they usually say at home.  Yet, many people feel like they don’t want to purchase a home in which someone has passed away.

Often buyers believe the seller must volunteer this information.  But the truth is it depends who the seller is, and even then the disclosure may be limited.  In California, there are three important points to make:

  • The seller is required to tell you of the death of an occupant of the property;
  • The seller is required to tell you about the death of an occupant on the premises within the last 3 years;
  • If the seller is a bank or a trustee, they are exempt from the requirement which forces the disclosure.  Banks and trustees are exempt from many statutory disclosures because the law assumes that they don’t know specifics about the property.  However, that does not mean that the bank or trustee can mislead you or omit facts that they actually know.  They cannot use the exemption as a shield for intentional fraud or deceit.

So, you may not receive a disclosure about the property, and even if you do, that disclosure may be more limited than you thought.  If you want to know more information, you must make a specific inquiry of the seller, and they then must disclose everything they know about deaths on the property.  They cannot mislead you when you have identified the issue as important to you in particular.

Tni LeBlanc, Mint Properties

* The posts on this site are presented as general research and information and are expressly not intended, and should not be regarded, as legal advice.  Readers are advised to seek legal advice from their own attorney about disclosure requirements and their particular real estate transaction.

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