Q: We just bought a home in April. I found out yesterday from one of the neighbors that the previous owner’s husband committed suicide in the house, right in the bedroom I sleep in.
Had I known this, I would not have purchased the house. Are they legally obligated to disclose that to us prior to purchase?
A: Are you getting a good night’s sleep? Or, were you before you found out about the prior owner’s suicide?
The seller of the property might have been obligated to disclose a material fact that would detrimentally affect the price or value of the property but which is not something you would have been able to find out otherwise.
While seller disclosure laws in most states cover issues that pertain to the construction of the home, those same laws don’t usually cover matters that could have been discovered in the public record. Some states seller disclosure laws would not require a seller to tell you about a new shopping center that might be built in the field that your home faces, but it would require the seller to tell you whether the basement had water problems.
To answer your specific question, I’m not sure whether a suicide would qualify, but a murder might.
People die in homes all the time and the circumstances of their death differ greatly. Buyers frequently never know those circumstances and it does not change the value of the home and probably does not need to be disclosed. In situations in which mass murders or horrific events have occurred in a location, those circumstances may rise to a level in which a seller would be obligated to tell you of those facts.
In your situation, it’s likely that the value of the home was not affected by the prior suicide and that the law may not require a seller to tell you of that fact. But, if you are still bothered by it and need a conclusive answer, talk to a real estate attorney in your area with experience in seller disclosure issues.