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Buyer Beware of Ghosts: Does a Seller Have to Disclose Whether a House is Allegedly Haunted?

October 27th, 2017

Posted in General Practice,Real Estate Law

Each year, people visit St. Augustine to experience the rich history that comes with being the Nation’s Oldest City.  Visitors flock to learn about any number of our City’s offerings: the Castillo de San Marcos, which is the oldest masonry fort in in the continental U.S.; the Oldest Wooden School House; or Flagler College, built in 1888 as a luxury hotel for Henry Morrison Flagler.  But as any local will tell you, no visit to St. Augustine is complete without a good ghost story or two along the way.

St. Augustine’s alleged haunts and ghosts have been featured on the Syfy channel.  Paranormal enthusiasts throughout the country visit the City in hopes of getting a firsthand glimpse of spooky tales; but would you want to live in a “haunted” house?  If you were considering purchasing a home or property, would you want the seller to disclose that it may have a history of unexplained creaks and visitors in the night?

In Florida, a seller is obligated to disclose known facts that “materially affect” the value of a residential property.  While some may argue that suspicion of paranormal activity materially affects the value of a home, it is unlikely that a seller would be obligated to disclose such suspicions.  Some states, like Massachusetts, have explicitly addressed so-called “psychologically impacted” properties, stating in its seller disclosure law “that the fact or suspicion that real property may be or is psychologically impacted shall not be deemed to be a material fact required to be disclosed in a real estate transaction,” including suspicions that “that the real property has been the site of an alleged parapsychological or supernatural phenomenon.”[1]

While Florida statutes do not specifically address this type of “phenomenon” in disclosure laws, a concerned (or curious) buyer may consider asking a seller about any unexpected visitors they’ve had in the past to prevent future scares.

[1] https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXV/Chapter93/Section114

Colby Keefe

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