Pa. Judge Rules No Disclosure Needed in Home's Grisly Past

January 9, 2013

A Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that sellers do not have to legally disclose “psychological defects” — such as a past murder or crime committed in the home — when trying to sell their house.

The case stems from a woman who says she was defrauded when sellers failed to reveal to her that the $610,000 house she purchased had a murder-suicide that took place there 14 months prior. The woman says she would have never purchased the house if she had known. 

But the judges ruled that the psychological effect from a home’s history could vary too much from person to person, and it should not have to be disclosed as a material defect in a home sale. 

Some states require sellers to disclose violent crimes that have occurred on a property. Often the disclosures are if the crimes were committed in a certain timeframe at the home, such as within the last two to three years, says Ralph Holmen, associate general counsel to the National Association of REALTORS®.

“The best practice in issues that are not deemed within the seller's disclosure law is to have a frank discussion with the seller and encourage them to do what would be reasonable if they were the purchasers,” says Annie Hanna Engel, chief legal counsel for Howard Hanna Real Estate Services. “But [disclosure] is not required and we cannot compel it.” 

Source: “Home Sellers in Pa. Don’t Have to Disclose ‘Psychological Defects’ of House,” Tribune-Review (Pittsburgh) (Jan. 5, 2013)

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