Selling a Haunted House? Legal Experts Give Advice on Scary Business

It’s that time of year. October 31st is hiding around the corner. Halloween and haunted houses. Both scary business. WMU-Cooley Law School Professors give practical advice to home owners with chilling concerns for more than just one day out of the year.

Haunted House

trudeau_christopherWMU-Cooley Professor Christopher Trudeau teaches Stambovsky v. Ackley in his Property I class. The case covers the disclosures of paranormal activity during the sale of a home. Professor Trudeau has also done extensive research on other statutes and laws regarding such cases. For instance, there is a law in Louisiana that requires individuals to disclose whether their house has a reputation of being haunted. Other cases actually cause people to disclose that a house ISN’T haunted as a marketing tool.

“Under Stambovsky, when a homeowner tells others their home is haunted, they would have to disclose this information,” says Professor Trudeau.  “If a home has a reputation, or is known as a haunted house, it will need to be disclosed. The house in the Stambovskycase had both the reputation and the media coverage about it being haunted to require that it be disclosed.”

Professor Renalia DuBose had this to say.

“Depending on how much the seller thinks the home is haunted and the more an individual has publicly spoke about the haunted activities dictates what needs to be disclosed. If it is just some inkling, one would not have to disclose it being haunted. Disclosures vary by the level of certainty of the owner. The more likely an individual thinks a home is haunted, the more likely a disclosure is expected.”

hastings_christopherProfessor Chris Hastings adds that “Under the common law, the familiar rule is “caveat emptor,” which is Latin for “buyer beware,” but many inroads are being made upon that rule, by consumer protection statutes, real estate disclosure laws, and evolution of common law doctrine. Perhaps the new rule is “non-discloser beware,”  or “keep secrets at your own risk.”

As you can see, selling a home can be more than just scary business – especially if you think your home is haunted.

Eerie questions answered by Professor Christopher Trudeau.

Let’s say you believe your home is haunted and you want to sell it, do you have to tell a prospective buyer?
This is different by state or even local ordinance. In most places a home seller would not need to disclose their home is haunted. Various states have stigma statutes, such as, if there was a murder or a person died in the home with HIV. These are not required to be disclosed. It protects the homeowner from having to disclose such things.

Under Stambovsky, would you only have to disclose this information if you’ve previously told others the house is haunted?
Yes, one would have to disclose this information. If a home has a reputation or is known as haunted it will need to be disclosed. The house in Stambovsky had the reputation and has had media coverage about it being haunted.

What about psychologically affected properties?
This will differ by state, but under Stambovsky it depends on what others know and do not know. It would be a positive thing to disclose under good faith.

Would any belief that a home is haunted be covered under that?
Depends on how much the seller thinks it is haunted and the more an individual has publicly spoke about the haunted activities. If it is just some inkling, one would not have to disclose, so it would very on the amount of certainty of the owner. The more likely and individual thinks a home is haunted the more likely a disclosure is expected.

Haunting coverage

Orlando Business Journal – 7 things to know today and what you need to know before selling a haunted house

Detroit Legal News – Cooley professors discuss haunted house law

RIS Media’s housecall – Are There Laws for Selling a Haunted House?

WWMT – Buying a haunted house in West Michigan

WOOD TV – Selling a ‘haunted’ house in Michigan

WOOD News Radio – Selling a ‘haunted’ house in Michigan

WKZO – Selling a Haunted House? Legal Experts Give Advice on Scary Business

WUSF – Scary Thought: Buying A Haunted House In Florida

Grand Rapids Business Journal – Nondisclosure can haunt real estate deals

Newsome Team Realtors – Are There Laws for Selling a Haunted House?

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