No Duty to Disclose Murder-Suicide to Home Buyers: Pa. Sup. Court
Are you trying to sell a murder house, but finding it hard to keep its homicidal history a secret? Well in Pennsylvania, you needn't worry about things like that. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that homeowners have no duty to disclose such tragic incidents to potential buyers.
According to PennLive.com, the state's High Court ruled this week that the sale of a house that was the backdrop of a murder-suicide didn't require the owner to tell the buyers about it.
So why are Pennsylvania homeowners allowed to keep murders and other tragedies secret from potential buyers?
One Home's Dirty Little Secret
The Pennsylvania case, Milliken v. Jacono, involved a house sold in 2007 despite the sellers never mentioning that a man had killed his wife and himself in the very same home in 2006. The sellers had purchased the home from the estate of Konstantinos Koumboulis (the murderer and former owner) and had even consulted attorneys before leaving the murder-suicide off of the home's list of defects.
But upon learning of the murder-suicide, the buyer turned around and sued the sellers for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and violation of Pennsylvania's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.
In general, it is illegal to sell a home without disclosing any "material defects" which are known to the seller. The question which confronted the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was whether a home's murderous history was a "material defect" or not.
Tragic Events on Property Are Not 'Material Defects': Court
In Milliken, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined that despite "the potential impact a psychological stigma may have on the value of property," it does not constitute a material defect. In other words, the home's history as set piece in a gruesome murder-suicide is not something material to the actual condition of the property.
To take murders or other tragic events into account would create an unwieldy burden on the seller to disclose any event with "psychological impact" with a connection to the home. Would a seller have to disclose rapes, but not satanic rituals? It probably didn't help the buyer's case that the Koumboulis murder-suicide was widely publicized, so even if the sellers had no obligation to disclose, the buyer could have found out about it.
Bottom line: Home sellers in Pennsylvania should disclose defects like leaky plumbing or termite damage, but they can keep murders to themselves.
Good news for whomever owns that house from "Clue."
- Some houses of horrors sell undetected (USA Today)
- Tenants Fear Rental House Is Haunted, Sue for Refund (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
- Haunted Real Estate: Must Disclose Haunted House? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- Snake House: Idaho Home Was on Snake Sanctuary (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)