I’m considering selling my home. My question is, do l need to advise prospective buyers that my husband passed away in the living room? Under what circumstances am I obliged to tell people who are interested in buying my house?
Widow and Home Owner
The short answer to your short question is it depends on what state you live in because every state has different rules on disclosures by homeowners when selling a property, and the nature of those disclosures. Ultimately, a good real-estate attorney will answer any questions you may have. You don’t have to do this alone. But before I go further: I’m sorry your husband passed away, and I do hope that he did so peacefully, and that you had many happy years together.
And now for the long answer. In California, a seller must disclose if a death has occurred in the house within the last three years, even if it includes natural causes. Cal. Civ. Code § 1710.2 states: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to immunize an owner or his or her agent from making an intentional misrepresentation in response to a direct inquiry from a transferee or a prospective transferee of real property, concerning deaths on the real property.”
Some states have laws about disclosures of a criminal nature. For instance, if there was a murder in the house. Other states such as Florida explicitly say you do not have to disclose such details when selling a home. Case in point: Fla. Stat. Ann. § 689.25(b) states: “Failure to disclose to the transferee that the property was or was suspected to have been the site of a homicide, suicide, or death” is not a material fact that must be disclosed in a real-estate deal.
But sellers must answer questions truthfully. “Regardless of which state you live in, if the buyer asks whether a death has occurred in the home, you are legally required to tell them the truth or risk legal repercussions,” according to Realtor.com. “If you aren’t upfront with a buyer early on, you also run the risk that the buyers may pull out of the agreement because they mistrust you — and assume that you’re hiding other things about the property.”
But it’s always good practice for any prospective buyer to research a property before buying it to see if there are any past or present situations that could impact the value of the property, particularly related to people who live close by. That includes knocking on a neighbor’s door to ask about the street, house or neighborhood. Some 11% of people have moved house because of their neighbors and nearly 75% dislike their neighbors, this survey found.
Good luck with your house sale. I hope you get a good price, and I wish you the best of everything in this new chapter of your life.
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