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Do sellers have to disclose deaths in the houses they are selling?

On Behalf of | Feb 21, 2024 | Real Estate Law

As part of their journey to purchasing a new home, potential property buyers inquire into the conditions of houses for sale, including defects that may not have been visible to them during their physical inspection.

In some instances, buyers also consider any significant events that may have occurred within a property’s walls. One particularly sensitive and potentially significant issue is whether a death has occurred on the property.

Accordingly, a critical question arises: Do sellers have to disclose to potential buyers any death in the houses they are selling?

A requirement in California

When selling properties in California, sellers must disclose any known deaths on the property within the last three years. This rule applies regardless of whether a death was peaceful or violent. However, the law does not require the disclosure of a death that occurred on the property if the death was due to natural causes, AIDS or any other illness that could not be transmitted through occupancy of the property.

After three years, sellers no longer have the legal obligation to disclose such events unless a buyer specifically asked. Otherwise, sellers who conceal or lie about the truth can face legal repercussions.

The reason behind this disclosure requirement is that, under certain circumstances, death can be a material fact that affects the property’s value or desirability.

Your right as a potential buyer

The law requires property sellers to provide you with comprehensive information about a property’s condition and history, which can help you make informed purchase decisions. This includes receiving information about any deaths that may have happened on the property. If they fail to do so, you may have remedies against them for failure to disclose material facts about the property.

Nonetheless, there are still exceptions to this. Hence, it is advisable to seek guidance from a knowledgeable real estate attorney before taking your next step.