What to do if I was not told about a prior death in my recently purchased residence?

UPDATED: Sep 2, 2011

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What to do if I was not told about a prior death in my recently purchased residence?

We recently purchased a residence. On one of the questionnaires we saw that the question concerning whether a death had occurred in the house was not answered. We asked our realtor to ask the seller’s agent. The only answer we received from our realtor was that the seller’s agent said the seller said it was a very difficult sale. Because this was our first purchase and we did not know better, we went forward with the purchase later to learn the previous owner committed suicide in the house. We are going to mediation because I believe that they broke the law in not informing us of the death. What to do about damages?

Asked on September 2, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

In California there is a statute that requires the owner of a property that has listed it for sale to disclose if a person has died on the property within three years of the initial listing. This requirement is mandatory.

The rationale is that many people have perceptions of real property and the passing of a person on it can make a sale difficult even if the property overall would be desirable "but for" the death of some person on it.

From a practical matter, it is best for the seller to disclose everything he or she knows about the property being listed to a prospective buyer in writing.

The problem in your situation is that a prior owner committed suicide on the purchased property. Under Calfornia statute requiring such disclosure there is no statutory penalty for the failure to have disclosed. Most likely you can rescind (cancel) your purchase because if the failure to disclose but placing a dollar value for the failure to disclose seems difficult.

If the listing agent knew about the suicide and did not disclose as well, then the lisitng agent violated the statute in addition to the seller.


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