Does a Murder in a House Have to be Disclosed to a Buyer?

Question

I represent the buyer.  The listing agent recently told me the property “might” have experienced a fire and the property “might” have been the site of a murder years ago, but the listing agent and the sellers aren’t completely sure (these alleged events didn’t happen while the current sellers owned the property).

Do I have to duty to disclose this to my buyer?

Answer

Yes and no.

According to Hughes vs. Goodreau, 836 So.2d 649 (La. App. 1 Cir. 12/31/02), the duties of a real estate agent are those which can be analogically drawn from La. R.S. 37:1455 and from the customs and practices of real estate brokers in general.

So, what does La. R.S. 37:1455 say about the duties of an agent?

According to La. R.S. 37:1455(A)(27), a real estate license can be censured, suspended or revoked if the agent fails to disclose to a buyer a known material defect regarding the condition of real estate of which the agent has knowledge.

If an agent’s license can be censured, suspended or revoked for failure to disclose a known material defect, then it logically follows that one of the duties of a real estate agent is the duty to disclose to the buyer a known material defect regarding the condition of the house.

Our next inquiry is whether a “fire” and/or a “murder” are considered a “known material defect” that must be disclosed.

The possible fire is a known material defect, but the murder is not.

Regarding the murder, according to La. R.S. 37:1468(A)(2), the fact or suspicion:

(2) That the property was, or was at any time suspected to have been, the site of a homicide, or other felony, or a suicide; is not a material fact or material defect regarding the condition of real estate that must be disclosed in a real estate transaction.

So, you have a duty to disclose the possible fire to your buyer but not the possible murder.