Selling Your Home After a Death Inside – When Is Disclosure Required?
It is always difficult losing someone you love, but when they die at home those constant reminders are often more than you can handle. At the best of times, you remember them sitting comfortably on the sofa watching television, or outside working in the garden. However, there are those other times when you walk by that spot where they left this world. You’ve done everything you can from hiring a biohazard cleaning company to sanitize the room where they passed, to removing the furniture or carpets where they were found.
Even so, you can’t help but see them lying there devoid of the personality that made them who they were. Sadly, this keeps the wounds of loss raw. If you are looking to sell your home to avoid those constant reminders of what you’ve lost, you may be wondering if you are legally required to make a disclosure to potential buyers. The answer to that is a bit complicated.
California Is in a League of Its Own
Most states don’t require you to disclose whether there has been a “death by natural causes” in the home. California, on the other hand, is in a league of its own. In California, you are legally required to disclose to potential buyers any death in the home in the preceding three years. It doesn’t matter if it was a violent death or a peaceful passing during the night, you must disclose any deaths during that time span. If you believe no one will be the wiser, think again. It is easy to go on sites like DiedinHouse.com, which will list information for those states only where it is required by law to do so, like California.
States Where Law States Disclosure Is Not Required
Now, let’s move on to states where both legislative and case law explicitly state that you do not need to disclose a death on the property when selling a home or commercial property. If you live in Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arizona, the law states empirically that you never need to disclose a death. Even if you are taken to court after the sale has closed, the plaintiff has no legal grounds and will invariably lose their suit.
The General Rule of Thumb
The only time when you may want to research the laws on disclosure in your state is when you are selling your home “By Owner.” If you work through a listing real estate brokerage, they have the obligation to explain the laws in your state. Although they have a fiduciary obligation to you as their client, you cannot interpret this to mean they can hide material facts which must be disclosed by law. For example, in some states, you are not required to disclose if the death was natural, but you are required to disclose if the death was by violence means.
A great number of people are squeamish about murder, and of those, some even believe the souls lost to violence will come back to haunt the grounds until the murderer is brought to justice. Your key takeaway here is that it is your legal obligation to understand the laws in your state. If you are listing through a realtor or an attorney, they will advise you on what you are required to do. If not, speak with an attorney who will counsel you on your obligations and rights. It is always better to err on the side of caution.