Disclosing a death prior to selling

by Justin da Rosa on 25 Jul 2016
Are agents required to disclose prior death within a property? One real estate legal expert has the answer.

“Licensees often ask whether a death at a property must be disclosed by the seller, be it death by murder, natural causes, accident or suicide,” lawyer Jennifer Clee, an instructor with the British Columbia Real Estate Association, wrote in her regular column for the association, Legally Speaking. “The simple answer is no. However, there are practical considerations that may make disclosure of such events beneficial to the seller.”

Sellers and agents are required to disclose “latent defects” – contributing factors that impact the quality and value of a property.

However, 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.

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. “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.’”

And if a potential buyer inquires about any such occurance, the buyer is under no obligation to disclose information, according to Clee. However, the seller “should” decline to answer, rather than outright deny it.

As for agent responsibility, it’s a little more complicated. According to Clee:

A seller's agent is not required to disclose a stigma to a buyer unless:
  • The seller's agent also represents the buyer who has indicated a concern about the stigma; or
  • The seller's agent has been authorized by the seller to answer a buyer's question about the existence of the stigma.
So the question should to be asked: As a selling agent, do you disclose events such as murders or suicides to potential buyers? Take our poll today.

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