Do Agents Have to Disclose Murders or Suicides?

By
Real Estate Agent with eXp Realty

It depends on the State. Generally, regular deaths are not required to be disclosed. An agent can't reasonably be expected to know about natural deaths that have occurred, especially in older homes. That information is not usually in the public domain. As for murders and suicides, that's a spicy one. Agents are required to disclose what are known as "Material Facts." According to Washington State law:

"Material fact" means information that substantially adversely affects the value of the property or a party's ability to perform its obligations in a real estate transaction. The fact or suspicion that the property, or any neighboring property, is or was the site of a murder, suicide or other death, rape or other sex crime, assault or other violent crime, robbery or burglary, illegal drug activity, gang-related activity, political or religious activity, or other act, occurrence, or use not adversely affecting the physical condition of or title to the property is not a material fact.

However, in my view, if an agent knows of such an incident he is ethically (if not necessarily legally) required to disclose it to potential buyers. It is, of course, rather awkward for us. Like knowing where the sex offenders are. It is an information minefield, so I prefer just to stay out of it, if possible. It is the Buyer's responsibility to do his or her own due diligence, and part of my job is to make sure they know that. As agents, we're better off staying out of it and pleading ignorance. That said, I would like to be clear. If I were to be aware of any such incident I would feel ethically obligated to tell my clients. Period. It's just the right thing to do, regardless of the specifics of the law.


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Topic:
Home Buying
Location:
Washington
Tags:
murder
disclosure

Comments 3 New Comment

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Rainmaker
570,934
Bill Ladewig
Your FHA Guru - FHA and VA Loans Since 1970

That is tough issue, I am not a real estate agent so I am not up on disclosure law but regardless, if I was an agent I would be agressively checking where sex offenders are living in any area I was showing homes to buyers of child bearing age.

I would not be at the local police station checking criminal event history of homes I plan to show but if I had knowledge of a terrible crime committed in a home I would feel obligated to disclose it to my potential buyers.

October 29, 2009 12:54 PM
Rainer
126,227
Tony Grego, 317-663-4173 #1 Trade Association for Alternative Inv
REISA - 317-663-4173

Very intersting post. I guess everything will sell at a price. What does this do to that price.

Good post

Tony

October 29, 2009 01:22 PM
Rainer
16,177
Rob LeRoy
eXp Realty

Bill,

Please understand, as the father of an 11 year-old daughter I take these issues incredibly seriously. However, as a real estate professional, I need to make it clear to my clients that I am NOT an expert on the criminal justice system, nor where it chooses to deposit it's detritus. Were I to claim otherwise, I would be risking liability resulting from the possibility (or probability) of innocent omissions. I can't imply that I know where all of the sex offenders live. What if I miss one? What if there is one I don't know about next door to the house that my clients buy...then they ask why I didn't tell them?  All I can do is tell them, up front,  of those cases about which I am personally familiar, then direct them to State and local sex-offender registry information.

October 29, 2009 02:21 PM
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Rainer
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Rob LeRoy

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Additional Information

Rob LeRoy, aka The Real Estate Novelist, is a Seattle based real estate agent, social media marketing coach, and recruiter for eXp Realty. He writes about life and real estate in the Seattle area, and offers writing and marketing coaching to real estate agents across the country.