Events such as suicide or murder – and even claims of hauntings – are considered stigmas and do not impact the actual value of a property in British Columbia, according to lawyer Jennifer Clee, an instructor with the British Columbia Real Estate Association.
In these cases, sellers aren’t required to disclose the details.
“It is the buyers' responsibility to ask questions about any personal considerations that could affect their enjoyment of a property,” Clee wrote in a recent column for the association. “As stated in Summach v. Allen: … ‘to allow defects to be determined by individual preferences would open the floodgates of litigation by remorseful purchasers and create an impossible standard of disclosure for vendors.’”
However, most agents say they willingly disclose such potential deal-breaking information; we asked agents if, as a selling agent, they disclose events such as murders or suicides to potential buyers. 70% of the nearly 400 respondents said they do. An additional 17% said they disclose only if asked.
“I am under the impression that, as listing agent, we must disclose these questions if asked by a buyer; especially for POA sale, [the] buyer often asks if the seller actually died in the property,” agent Amanda Xie said in the REP forum. “I don't see the harm to disclose this outright, I don't feel right not to disclose it. I am licensed in Ontario.”
Not every agent willingly discloses, though. 5% of respondents said they don’t; and an additional 7% said their decision depends on varying circumstances.
“We must keep in mind that there is indeed an obligation to disclose latent defects to buyers. In some situations it may even be prudent to disclose patent defects,” an agent said in the REP forum. “But to suggest that we have an obligation to disclose all the possible stigmas that may exist, and that may be troublesome to some people is in my opinion ludicrous and just plain silly.”
It’s a topic that stirred much debate among real estate agents – and now we know how common it is to disclose house stigmas to potential buyers.