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Ghouls, Goblins, Ghosts, and Disclosures

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Everything Real Estate in the San Fernando Valley
Thursday October 26, 2017
Ghouls, Goblins, Ghosts, and Disclosures

Seller Disclosure

Keeping with the spirit of the holiday, this article will take a look at home disclosures in the supernatural context. This article should not be taken as legal advice, but should be read with anything hot in your cup – you will laugh. Every once in a while, judges and lawyers like to have fun, and the case of <em>Stambovsky v. Ackley</em> is an example of one of those times. 572 N.Y.S 2d 672.

This case, in a nutshell, is about a home buyer who wanted to rescind his contract with the seller for the purchase of a home. The basis? The seller didn’t disclose that the house was haunted by a poltergeist! Further, the seller had submitted articles about the house being haunted to a publication specializing in haunted houses, and the reputation of the house in the local community was that it was haunted. With that backstory, let’s take a look at a few gems from the Appellate Court opinion.

“While I agree with Supreme Court that the real estate broker, as agent for the seller, is under no duty to disclose to a potential buyer the phantasmal reputation of the premises and that, in his pursuit of a legal remedy for fraudulent misrepresentation against the seller, plaintiff hasn't a ghost of a chance…” Stambovsky v. Ackley (N.Y. App. Div. 1991) 169 A.D.2d 254.

“From the perspective of a person in the position of plaintiff herein, a very practical problem arises with respect to the discovery of a paranormal phenomenon: “Who you gonna' call?” as the title song to the movie “Ghostbusters,” asks. Applying the strict rule of caveat emptor to a contract involving a house possessed by poltergeists conjures up visions of a psychic or medium routinely accompanying the structural engineer and Terminix man on an inspection of every home subject to a contract of sale.” Id., at 257.

Finally, “Whether the source of the spectral apparitions seen by defendant seller are parapsychic or psychogenic, having reported their presence in both a national publication (“Readers' Digest”) and the local press (in 1977 and 1982, respectively), defendant is estopped to deny their existence and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted.” Id., at 256.

All fun aside, Sellers and Agents are required to make certain disclosures to potential buyers. The seller’s disclosure requirements include, but are not limited to:

  • Details on the property tax for the property
  • The existence of known military weapons in the vicinity
  • The condition of appliances and other features of the property
  • Defects in the home
  • Flooding or draining issues with property
  • The existence of lead-based paint in the household; and
  • Information regarding earthquake faults and other natural disaster risks associated with the home.

The lesson to be learned from this article, if you are selling your home, is this: Disclose everything, especially the fact that your house is haunted!

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