MURDER, SUICIDE HOMES: SECRECY NOW LEGAL

Haunted House by by Trostle/Flickr

 

Are you looking to buy a home this year? Do you already own one?

If yes, BEWARE! You may have to look deeper than the basement to find the dark secrets lurking within the walls. Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, you might be getting more than you bargained for and it could even deplete the value of the home.

The decision was made last week in Pennsylvania by a panel of Superior Court judges. They reaffirmed that the lurid reputation of a home—no matter how gruesome—does not count as “material defect” and does not have to be disclosed to the buyer.

The court wrote, “The fact that a murder once occurred in a house falls into that category of homebuyer concerns best left to caveat emptor.

The same rules apply to those of you living in New Jersey.

The decision was made after a Delaware woman, who bought a home only to later discover a murder-suicide had occurred there a year earlier. She claimed she’d never have bought it had she known of the deaths. The woman sued, stating that she suffered financial loss from her “stigmatized” house, and that the tarnished reputation amounted to a material defect, comparable to a leaky roof or broken furniture. The judges didn’t agree.

I was in a similar situation when I rented an apartment at Harveys Lake, PA where a woman committed suicide in the living room only a couple years before I moved in. I grew up in the area; although I had an eerie feeling it happened in the apartment, I didn’t ask questions and my landlords kept quiet.

It was my neighbor who confirmed the gruesome event to me one night. She and her boyfriend were home when the gun went off.

Well, I thought, that explains the cheap rent, why people hear disembodied voices when staying overnight, why bodiless shadows move along the walls, and decorations crash to the floor in the middle of the night . . .

My neighbor then continued by showing me a memorial website dedicated to the deceased woman with pictures of her in my apartment building. It left me feeling uneasy whenever I walked through the apartment, especially when I was alone in the living room. There wasn’t a day after that I didn’t think about the woman who committed suicide.

Would I have rented the apartment if the landlord told me what happened before moving in? Yes, but I’m drawn to the darker side of life. Would others? Probably not.

Is it fair to keep tragic deaths from potential buyers (or in my case, a renter), despite their beliefs in the supernatural?

My advise: if you’re ready to put a bid on that perfect home, and the thought of a grisly murder/suicide leaves you feeling unsettled, it might be a good idea to ask the neighbors about the home’s history. A quick search on your local newspaper’s website could also provide some information. If the results are grim, however, try bargaining for a cheaper price. Or run the other away!

Image: Trostle/Flickr 


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