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Pa. Court Affirms: No Need To Disclose If House For Sale Was a Crime Scene

(In the movie "Beetlejuice," Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis play a deceased couple trying to haunt a house.  Image: Warner Bros.)

(In the movie “Beetlejuice,” Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis play a deceased couple trying to haunt a house. Image: Warner Bros.)

Tim Jimenez Tim Jimenez
Tim Jimenez is a general assignment reporter at KYW Newsradio...
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By Tim Jimenez

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently looked at a local case from 2007 asking whether someone selling a house is obligated to tell potential buyers about a murder that took place in the property.

A woman bought a house in Delaware County, Pa. from a couple who had just got it through auction and wanted to turn around and sell it.

The buyer found out later that a murder-suicide had taken place in the house a year earlier.  So she sued the sellers for not telling her.

The court last week reaffirmed the original decision, explains Henry Lerner, with the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors.

“Since this is not a physical condition of the property but rather a reaction that a potential buyer might have to something that happened there, it wouldn’t have been covered under the mandatory provisions of the law,” he tells KYW Newsradio.

So, legally you have to disclose a leaky roof, but not a murder that had no physical effect on the property.

The court says murder’s stigma is subjective — it won’t have the same effect on every buyer.  They asked rhetorically where it would be appropriate to draw the line in such cases.   What if the murder took place a century earlier?  What crimes can or cannot be disclosed?

So, Lerner explains, it’s all on the buyer to do the research.

“Walk around the neighborhood, talk to people. See what questions you might have that they can answer for you,” he advises.  “That general advice for any particular buyer really would cover here.”

Caveat emptor!

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