This is the scary truth: haunted houses are a fun Halloween tradition, but when it comes to the real deal, allegedly haunted houses can be difficult to sell. Almost all U.S. states requires sellers to fill out standard disclosure forms designed to inform the buyer about the property’s condition and any potential physical defects. But what are a sellers obligations to the potential buyers in the event of “emotional” defects in a home? Do sellers have to disclose that their home is potentially “psychologically impacted,” or haunted? The answer depends on where the property is located.
Illinois law states explicitly that a buyer does not have a cause of action against a seller for failing to disclose that the property was “the site of an act or occurrence that had no effect on the physical condition of the property or its environment.” 225 ILCS 454/15-20. In other words, past murders or other tragic events do not need to be disclosed, as long as the structural integrity of the property was not damaged. If, however, there is a physical manifestation in the home that effects the physical condition of the property, spectral plasma running down a wall, for example, the seller is required to disclose the problem to the buyer.
Other states have different approaches to supernatural problems. California, for example, requires that sellers disclose any deaths that occur on the property within the past three years. The California Association of Realtors also advises its agents to disclose any death, no matter how long ago it occurred, if the buyer asks. In Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, ghosts or other hauntings are not considered a material defect requiring disclosure. In Virginia, similar to the law in Illinois, disclosure must be made only in the case of a physical manifestation.
Whether you believe in ghosts or not, know the law in your area before filling out the required disclosure forms. Approximately half of U.S. states have laws dealing with disclosure and stigmatized properties. When in doubt, disclose. And buyers, in addition to asking about leaking roofs or boisterous neighbors, do your due diligence on any supernatural inhabitants. And then, after the Closing, call the Ghostbusters.