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Sunday, January 06, 2013

Law - "Pa. home sellers can keep murders, suicides secret" But what about Indiana?

Thanks to How Appealing (which links to the opinion), here is a Jan. 5th story by Sam Wood of the Philadelphia Inquirer - some quotes:

Planning on buying a house this year?

If you're even slightly squeamish, get ready to do some extra detective work.

If the property was the site of a bloody crime, the seller does not have to divulge that scrap of information.

In a decision handed down last week, a panel of Pennsylvania Superior Court judges reaffirmed that the sordid reputation of a home - no matter how gruesome - does not count as a "material defect" and does not have to be disclosed to a buyer.

"The fact that a murder once occurred in a house falls into that category of home-buyer concerns best left to caveat emptor" - let the buyer beware - the appeals court wrote.

For those shopping on the other side of the Delaware, the same applies in New Jersey. * * *

According to the court decision, the Jaconos and their real estate agents, Re/Max, knew about the home's history. They called the state Real Estate Commission, which assured them that they were not required to disclose that information.

Milliken sued, arguing that she never would have bought the house had she been aware of the grisly events.

Brokers often consider "stigmatized" the houses that have been the scenes of murders or suicides. The term also encompasses the belief that a house might be haunted. * * *

The upshot to Milliken v. Jacono et al? If living in a former crime scene would keep you from a night's sleep, real estate experts say, ask for a written warranty in the agreement of sale that states the home was never the site of a murder, suicide, or other felony.

What about Indiana? Recall this July 2, 2007 ILB entry headed "Woman didn't know rental house was murder scene." From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette story quoted:
State law does not require an agent to tell a prospective homebuyer or renter if a death occurred in the house unless the agent is specifically asked. Mitchell said her parents thought the house was the site of one of the city’s most gruesome homicides in recent years, but when she asked her landlord whether anything had happened in the house, she said he said no.
The end of the lengthy entry quotes from the 2002 Indiana statute, "Psychologically Affected Properties." Some provisions of the Indiana law:
IC 32-21-6-5 Disclosure not required
Sec. 5. An owner or agent is not required to disclose to a transferee any knowledge of a psychologically affected property in a real estate transaction.

IC 32-21-6-6 Refusal to disclose; misrepresentation
Sec. 6. An owner or agent is not liable for the refusal to disclose to a transferee:
(1) that a dwelling or real estate is a psychologically affected property; or
(2) details concerning the psychologically affected nature of the dwelling or real estate.
However, an owner or agent may not intentionally misrepresent a fact concerning a psychologically affected property in response to a direct inquiry from a transferee.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 6, 2013 01:38 PM
Posted to General Law Related