Poltergeist Gives a New Definition to “Buyer Beware”

by sandy.linczer 31, October 2013 13:34

 

Poltergeist is a classic horror film made in 1982 about a family who moves into a house that is haunted by ghosts.  Ironically, the husband, Steven Freeling (Craig T. Nelson), is a successful real estate developer and only after it is too late, finds out that their house is built over a cemetery.

 

As a result, the  Freelings deal with things no family would expect when moving into a new home.  They see bizarre instances of furniture being rearranged, experience indoor earthquakes, are attacked by reanimated trees and taken over by apparitions appearing inside the TV.  The seller did not disclose any defects with the house that would lead to any these circumstances occurring.

 

This leads to the discussion of what must and must not be disclosed to a buyer before they purchase a home.  Did the owner leave out key information when selling that property to the Freelings?  Or was he not obligated to disclose what seems to be very pertinent information (the fact that the house was built on a cemetery)  

 

In Texas, to quote property law, “A Seller or Seller's agent have no obligation to release information about death that occurred on the property due to natural causes, suicide, or accident unrelated to the property condition or whether previous occupant had, may have or has AIDS, HIV related illnesses or HIV infection.”  

However, “In Texas, a seller of real estate is under a duty to disclose material facts that would not be discoverable by the exercise of ordinary care and diligence on the part of the purchaser, or that a reasonable investigation and inquiry would not uncover.”

So technically, since being built on a cemetery is not a material defect; the seller did not have to disclose such information.  It was a new house and there was no prior knowledge from any previous owner about any deaths related to the property so the seller disclosed all he needed to.

 

However, not disclosing supernatural facts about a house can cause a deal to go sour.  In 1991, there was a famous court case in New York, where a buyer was able to get out of his contract because he had bought the house without knowing that the property was notoriously haunted.  The seller action’s were not called fraudulent.  However, even with a proper seller’s disclosure (legally at least) the buyer was able to back out of the contract due to the fact that the house had a reputation for being haunted and the seller did not disclose this fact to him directly.  

All this legal talk is frightening to say the least.  Happy Halloween!

Sources:

HouseDefects.com

http://www.housedefects.com/31/Sellers_Obligations.htm

LegalZoom.com

http://www.legalzoom.com/everyday-law/home-leisure/ghoul-disclosure-must-home-sellers

Casebriefs.com http://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/property/property-law-keyed-to-dukeminier/the-land-transaction/stambovsky-v-ackley/

 

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The Ring Reminds Landlords To Not Leave Anything Behind

by sandy.linczer 31, October 2013 06:25

The Ring was a hit horror movie in 2002 starring Naomi Watts, Daveigh Chase, and Martin Henderson.  The movie is a remake of the 1998 Japanese film, Ringu, which involves a cursed video tape that kills anyone who watches it.  The string of terrors begin when two victims visit a cabin and find the video tape.  Out of curiosity they watch the video and that’s when the trouble begins.


If the property owner had removed all of his possessions before the tenant rented out the place, this string of deaths could have easily been avoided.  A deathly video tape is just one example of why property owners should remove all possessions from their house before a tenant moves in.  


For example, Ashoka Lion is currently dealing with a homeowner that left multiple power tools and a motorcycle in his garage.  If a kid happened upon any of these items, the results could be disastrous.  Another example that Ashoka Lion has dealt with is a client leaving multiple garden gnomes in her yard.  These gnomes had sentimental value to her and yet she wanted to risk leaving them there and chance a tenant or landscaper accidentally weed whacking one of her gnomes.  After much convincing, the client agreed to remove her gnomes from the yard and put them in storage.  

In addition to protecting your belongings, removing all belongings from the rental property is also the courteous thing to do.  But most importantly, it protects landlords from any liability if a tenant gets hurt tripping on an old lamp, playing with power tools, or you know, watching a cursed video tape and getting killed a week later.  

Happy Halloween from the Ashoka Lion Property Management Team.