Understanding Disclosure of Stigmatized Property
While working as a Massachusetts Realtor over the last thirty-six years, one of the questions that always seems to come up is whether or not a Realtor is obligated to disclose a murder, suicide, haunting, or another type of paranormal activity that may have occurred in a home or other Real Estate.
Stigmatized property disclosure is essential to understand as a real estate agent, buyer, or seller.
Wikipedia defines a haunted house as a home or other Real Estate often perceived as being inhabited by disembodied spirits of the deceased who may have been former residents or were familiar with the property.
Supernatural activity inside homes is said to be mainly associated with violent or tragic events in the building’s past, such as murder, accidental death, or suicide.
Disclosing Murder, Suicide, and Haunted Homes in Massachusetts
This is one of those topics that I would be willing to bet at least half the Realtors polled would get the answer wrong. I am sure most Real Estate agents would say that they must disclose a haunted house or if someone died on a property by murder or suicide. They would be dead wrong:)
One of my beliefs is that every buyer should be entitled to know anything that could materially affect a home’s value or the ability to sell in the future. This, in fact, is one of the articles in the Real Estate code of ethics.
In Massachusetts, a Realtor is not required to disclose these events in a property. Apparently, lawmakers do not feel these events are worthy of Real Estate disclosure. I suppose in the case of a haunted home, it would be much harder to prove the existence of ghosts.
Many states require full disclosure of violent crimes such as murder and any other event that may stigmatize a property before it is sold. That is not the case in Massachusetts!
The Specific General Law on Stigmatized Property Disclosure In Massachusetts
Below is the excerpt from the Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93, section 114 that discusses Real Estate disclosure for alleged haunted homes, murder, and suicide:
“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.
I find it interesting that the disclosure of a person with AIDS was lumped into this kind of stigmatization. It does not seem all that similar to these other disclosure issues.
Other States Treat Stigmatized Property Disclosure Laws Differently
While this is the case in Massachusetts, you can not assume that in other states, it is alright not to disclose known events such as a murder or haunting.
Take a look at this in-depth article that discusses in much greater detail whether or not you need to disclose a stigmatized property, such as paranormal activity, murder, suicide, AIDS, or even whether or not a sexual predator has been identified as living in the area.
What buyers and sellers need to understand is that the laws in one state can and often are much different than another. If you move around due to relocation, you should find out the laws in your current state regarding these kinds of disclosures and others associated with buying and selling.
If you are a Massachusetts Realtor, another thing to pay careful attention to is purposely deceiving someone. While nondisclosure may not be an issue, blatantly lying to someone certainly could be.
If you are marketing a home that is well known to be suspected of being haunted and a buyer asks you a direct question about it, you should always be truthful about what you know.
Other Real Estate articles worth a look:
Massachusetts seller’s disclosure statement– see what you need to know about the Massachusetts real estate disclosure form, whether you are buying or selling a home.
Backing out of a real estate contract – learn the ramifications of breaking a real estate contract in Massachusetts.
About the Author: The above Real Estate information on disclosing stigmatized property in Massachusetts was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 36+ Years.
Thinking of selling your home? I am passionate about real estate and love sharing my marketing expertise!
I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.