Property disclosure laws are mostly straightforward about making known the physical condition of a home that’s for sale. However, whether or not to disclose other material facts, that may include events that occurred in and around the home, is not always clear. Material facts about a home are often described as information that may sway a home buyer’s decision about the purchase or purchase price. Some of the more familiar material fact cases that are typically reported in the news include haunted homes and unruly neighbors. Yet, these two recent accounts have again raised the question and debate about what the seller and the real estate agent is obligated to disclose.
Sounding like a plot of a horror movie, it is the real estate horror story of a New Jersey family. Philadelphia’s WPVI-TV (New Jersey family says they are being stalked at new home; 6abc.com; June 22, 2015) reported on a family that was allegedly stalked through creepy and threatening letters. The new home owners started receiving these letters several days after closing on their million dollar home.
The letters were described as written by the “Watcher,” who claimed to be the latest of his family to watch the home with such statements as the home has been “the subject of my family for decades…” Other letter statements include “Why are you here? I will find out…” And, “I am pleased to know your names now and the name of the young blood you have brought to me.”
According to Tom Haydon, who reported on the lawsuit for NJ Advance Media (Lawsuit: ‘Bring me young blood,’ stalker told Westfield home buyers;nj.com; June 19, 2015), the new owners were so disturbed by the letters that they never moved into their new home; and have been trying to sell it. The family is suing the seller alleging that the seller knew about the “Watcher” because the seller did not disclose that they allegedly received a similar letter prior to closing.
You’ve heard about “Snakes in a Plane?” This next story is about an Annapolis MD family who experienced “snakes in a house.” David Collins reported for Baltimore’s WBAL-TV (Snake-infested Annapolis home rattles owners; wbaltv.com; June 5, 2015) about the snake infested home. Detailing the new owners’ nightmare; they said they used a machete as defense against snakes that reportedly dropped from ceilings, and slithered from the walls.
To rid the home of the snakes, the owners described how they ripped out walls, and tore up the ground around the foundation. However the report indicated that “experts” told the owners gutting the home may not guarantee the snakes would return because the snake pheromones and musk could attract new snakes; and that the home should be left vacant for fifteen years to rid the home of the musky odors.
The new owners allege that their insurance will not cover a claim, nor is their mortgage lender willing to help. The new owners are suing the real estate agent and broker for allegedly not disclosing the snakes; there are also allegations that the tenants who lived in the home prior to the sale, moved out because of snakes.
Legal experts across the country have weighed in on these extraordinary stories, only to illustrate how a seller’s obligation to disclose varies regionally. If you are selling a home and have questions about your obligation to disclose, consult your real estate agent and your attorney.
Copyright © Dan Krell
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.