Does a death or suicide need to be disclosed by a seller or a listing agent? I haven't been asked many times over the years, but it comes up every so often. What's Texas law?
Texas law states, in summary, that disclosure is only needed if the house caused the death. What does that mean? The biggest example always used is say a house was a known drug house. Someone got mad and did a drive-by shooting and someone died. Upon resale, the death would need to be disclosed because if word does not spread around the drug community that the house had been sold, the new owners might be at risk.
An example of where murder does not have to be disclosed is if there was a home invasion and the robbers tragically murdered the home owners. It could have been any house, so the house wouldn't remain in harms way.
Suicides and death by natural causes are not caused by the house and also do not have to be disclosed.
When I was 12, I lived in a haunted house. The little old lady slipped in the bathtub and drowned. This was not disclosed, not because we were just renting, but because it was an accident. The house didn't cause the death. When the agent was questioned, her response was, "That's Florence. She's really very nice, but just doesn't like when there are a lot of kids around." She would turn lights on in the master bedroom. She would move candles and turn pictures around. You would feel a gust of wind slamming a door after friends would leave.
Legally, Florence did not need to be disclosed and she wasn't... until asked. That's where there is a fine line. If an agent knows there was a death, murder, or suicide in a home that legally doesn't have to be disclosed, it must be disclosed if/when asked. As a licensed real estate agent, we cannot lie to a direct question like that.
Many people say it's best to disclose before the buyers find out from a neighbor. Possibly. I think it's a case by case situation. If there was huge news coverage and a known fact to the general public what happened, maybe it's best to advise the sellers to disclose. If it was something years ago and no one really pays attention, what's the point in mentioning it? Many people in older homes like to die peacefully in their own homes, and it would be ridiculous to have to disclose every natural cause death.
If you feel information like that would make you object to a house, I suggest you ask if the box on the seller's disclosure notice is marked as no. A listing agent cannot volunteer this information without explicit instructions by their seller or they could be considered hindering the sale and reveling confidential information.
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* Does Death in a Home have to be Disclosed? * was first published on donnahomesblog.com