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Death, disclosures and New York real estate: What to know

On Behalf of | Mar 20, 2023 | Uncategorized |

As a property owner who is trying to sell, you probably already know that there are certain mandatory disclosures you need to make to potential buyers – like whether there’s any lead paint or old fire damage to the property.

But what about if someone died on the property? A lot of buyers are very superstitious, so they don’t like the idea of living in a home where someone died (even by natural causes), while others simply recoil at the idea of living in a home where someone died through violence or suicide. Knowing that such a revelation could limit your pool of potential buyers, is there any option?

Do you have to tell a potential buyer about a death in the house?

Although the rules vary greatly, many states do require sellers to notify potential buyers of deaths in a home – but New York isn’t one of them. In fact, even if a buyer asks, they’re required to submit the request for that information in writing – and you can still choose not to answer.

What about the post-death presence of a spirit in the house?

This may sound comic, but it’s no laughing matter in New York. A lot of people (and cultures) have serious concerns about spiritual activity in a home, and New York is one of only four states that actually addresses this concern.

Under the rules in this state, only sellers who have publicly created or perpetuated the idea that their home is haunted must make this disclosure. For example, if you included your historic home on an annual “ghost walk” at Halloween and claimed that the original owner’s spirit could still sometimes be seen looking out your upstairs window, you would need to tell potential buyers.

Every real estate deal has the potential for complications, no matter who is involved. That’s what makes it so important to make sure that you’re legally in the clear as you move through the process.