SO, YOU WANT TO SELL YOUR HAUNTED HOUSE?
SO YOU WANT TO SELL YOUR HAUNTED HOUSE – DO YOU HAVE TO DISCLOSE IT?
You’ve owned and lived in your old house for many years, and now you want to sell it. You know from a previous Badger Blog post that Arizona law requires that you disclose to a potential buyer “material,” meaning important, information about the house and the property. Your real estate agent has probably provided you a “Residential Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement” (SPDS) form to help with disclosure of important information about the property. But the items covered in that form may not cover all important information. If you are aware of some important fact that could negatively affect the value of the property, you have to disclose it even if it is not covered in the form Disclosure Statement.
Days to Halloween 2022
MY HOUSE IS HAUNTED!
Over the years listening to the things that go bump in the night you have come to believe that your house is haunted. That belief is important to you, and it might be important to a potential buyer. Do you have to disclose your belief? Probably not.
Many people don’t believe in ghosts, and wouldn’t believe you if you told them it was haunted. Many people do believe, and may find a haunting to be important. In fact, some would consider it a positive (cool) feature of the property.
Our judicial system was set up to decide “facts” and to apply the law to those facts. At this point in time, the law would likely consider a haunting to be a matter of personal belief or opinion rather than an objectively provable fact. This is not a meant as an insult to all you avid ghost hunters or fans of the many ghost hunting shows on TV. We know there are some – maybe many – of you who insist that there is scientific evidence or eyewitness testimony supporting the existence of ghosts. We aren’t here trying to dispute that. We’re just saying the law isn’t there yet. The courts do not want to be in the business of deciding things that cannot be proven as objective facts. But who knows what will happen as science and our understanding of such phenomena evolves.
You may recall that in a recent Badger Blog post we explained that a seller does not have to disclose that there has been a death, natural or otherwise, on the property. And whether a death occurred on the property is an objectively provable fact. Not only is the existence of a possible “haunting” not an objectively provable fact, it falls into the same category of stigma – type information that a seller generally does not have to disclose.
What if the buyer specifically asks you whether the house is haunted? If the buyer adds that he or she is “really looking to buy a haunted house,” then disclose away! If the buyer adds nothing to the question, or adds that he or she wants to avoid buying a haunted house, then what? A couple of principles come into play here. The first is “DON’T LIE.” There is law in Arizona supporting the proposition that a seller may have a duty to disclose a fact if a buyer asks about it even if the fact is not otherwise material. The second principle, discussed above, is that the courts likely would not deem a haunting to be a provable “fact.” A buyer claiming to have been misled about the existence of a haunting would have a very tough job convincing a court that he or she was misled about a material “fact,” which the province of the courts. Of course, the seller can simply say he or she would rather not answer or is not required to answer. And the seller is always free to say “Yep, I think he place is haunted.”
So if you’re ever faced with the sale of your haunted house, hope this Badger Blog post helps. Of course, Law Badgers is here to help!
ENJOY SPOOKY SEASON!
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