In November the Toronto Star reported that a Bowmanville couple is suing their real estate agent and the people from whom they bought their house for not disclosing that there had been a double murder there 15 years earlier — including that of a 6-year-old girl.
Two years ago in Orangeville, a homebuyer was able to get out of his deal after learning that the house was owned by a nurse who had been murdered nearby.
These cases, and others like it, raise interesting legal issues about what should or shouldn’t be disclosed when a house is sold.
As a general rule, any defect that affects the value of a property should be disclosed to the buyer. This is clear enough for such things as leaky basements or structural problems, where the effect on value can be objectively quantified, but it gets pretty fuzzy for subjective stigmas like a death in the house. It used to be normal for someone to die in their own home with their family around them, but these days any death in a home, even by natural causes, can bother some people and might therefore be considered to have an effect on the property’s value. Where should the line be drawn? The bottom line is that, absent any guidelines from the government about what stigmas need to be disclosed, the prudent seller should follow the following maxim: “When in doubt, disclose!”