On Halloween eve, I thought I would delve into the spooky topic of haunted houses and disclosure issues. Massachusetts real estate brokers struggle to sell homes tainted by shocking murders, suicides, or even suspected “haunted houses” filled with paranormal activity. These “stigmatized” properties are particularly difficult to deal with as they raise unique valuation problems and disclosure issues.
No Disclosure Rule
Under Massachusetts law, real estate brokers and sellers are under no legal obligation to disclose that a property was the site of a felony, suicide or homicide, or has been the site of an alleged “parapsychological or supernatural phenomenon,” i.e., a haunted house. Thus, buyers are on their own to discover these types of stigmas.
Here is the law, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93, section 114:
The fact or suspicion that real property may be or is psychologically impacted shall not be deemed to be a material fact required to be disclosed in a real estate transaction. “Psychologically impacted” shall mean an impact being the result of facts or suspicions including, but not limited to, the following:
(a) that an occupant of real property is now or has been suspected to be infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or any other disease which reasonable medical evidence suggests to be highly unlikely to be transmitted through the occupying of a dwelling;
(b) that the real property was the site of a felony, suicide or homicide; and
(c) that the real property has been the site of an alleged parapsychological or supernatural phenomenon.
No cause of action shall arise or be maintained against a seller or lessor of real property or a real estate broker or salesman, by statute or at common law, for failure to disclose to a buyer or tenant that the real property is or was psychologically impacted.
An easy way to determine whether a house is truly “haunted” is to hire Ghostbusters. No seriously, Google the property address and the last few prior owners and see what comes up. If there was a murder or suicide–or even ghosts– it should reveal itself.