Even though “Haunted Houses” is a popular search term at this time of year, most buyers are less than thrilled with the prospect of becoming unwitting stars of the next Poltergeist movie. So, if a buyer purchases a haunted house, is the seller on the hook?
Florida law does require certain disclosures, the Standard Residential Contract for Sale and Purchase includes the following statement, “Seller knows of no facts materially affecting the value of the Real Property which are not readily observable and which have not been disclosed to Buyer”, and many contracts even include a Seller Disclosure form. Florida law provides that, with some exceptions, a home seller must disclose any facts or conditions about a property that have a substantial impact on its value that others cannot easily observe themselves. Creepy bugs (like termites or other wood destroying creatures) or a leaky roof are common conditions that come to mind when you think of disclosures. Nevertheless, sometimes a home has a specter of mysterious issues. So what happens when your walk-through feels like a reenactment of the Amityville Horror, or when the kid next doors tells you that his best friend is Casper?
Believe it or not, in some states a seller is required to disclose the possibility of paranormal activity in their homes, or the fact that a crime was committed in their home. We are sorry to report that Florida has no such requirement. All ghosts, ghouls, goblins and dementors are included in your purchase price, no negotiation necessary! In fact, in Florida, a Seller does not even have to disclose that their property either was suspected to be, or was, the site of a crime. Further, a Seller has no obligation to disclose homicides, suicides or deaths that occurred on the property. In short, even if things go bump in the night, a Seller is not required to say “Boo!”.
This sometimes poses a problem when a Buyer finds out about a death that occurred on the property and wants to cancel their contract or sue the Seller for failure to disclose. Since Florida law imposes no requirement to disclose, the Seller has not done anything wrong by not disclosing crimes, homicides, suicides or deaths occurring on a property; these events are not in themselves considered to be conditions that substantially impact the value of a home, even if an individual buyer would disagree. In fact, some would argue that a ghost or two never hurt. The Chelsea Hotel in New York City, the Winchester House in California, and even the Haunted Mansion at Disney are extremely popular among humans and ghosts alike.
So, if inheriting a house with a ghost or two is a scary proposition for you, do NOT contact your real estate attorney. Instead, who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!
Berlin Patten Ebling wishes you all a safe and happy Halloween!
As always, if you have any questions about the use of the FRBR Contract or As-Is Contract, we urge you to consult with your real estate attorney.
Berlin Patten Ebling, PLLC
Article Authored by Natasha Selvaraj, Esq. firstname.lastname@example.org
This communication is not intended to establish an attorney client relationship, and to the extent anything contained herein could be construed as legal advice or guidance, you are strongly encouraged to consult with your own attorney before relying upon any information contained herein.
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