When to Raise the Issue of Death

Does a seller have to disclose a death that occurred on the property? In 1983, the California Court of Appeals ruled that a homeowner had the responsibility to disclose to a potential home buyer that a multiple murder had occurred on a property 10 years ago.

"This established the law," said attorney Gary Effron, that a known death on a property should be disclosed.

But that ruling was scaled back by the Legislature, first in 1986 with the enactment of California Civil Code 1710.2, which said that a seller did not have to disclose an AIDS-related death on the property if it occurred more than three years prior, and then again in 1987 when that code was amended to include any type of death. So what about a death that occurred less than three years ago?

While this is still a gray area in California law, Effron interprets it to mean that because the code does not specifically address more recent murders or deaths, those cases should be covered by the 1983 Court of Appeals ruling and be disclosed.

The bottom line? Disclosure about death--no matter the timeline or cause--is always best.

"A lot of people are spooked by death," he said. "If you think a buyer will be creeped out by something, then it's best to disclose."


Allison B. Cohen

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