The process of buying and selling a home requires full transparency between a buyer and seller — and a whole lot of detail.
As buyer, you might want to know if someone has died on the property. And California law requires the seller to disclose it if the death occurred within three years of the sell date, according to the California Department of Real Estate.
The law can get tricky, though. Here’s what you should know if you’re selling (or buying) a house:
Do you have to report if someone died at your house?
Although the law requires California residents to disclose any death that’s occurred in the home within the last three years, it’s best practice for a seller to disclose anything they know about the home, a real estate agent said.
“I always advised my sellers to disclose ANY death on the property they’re aware of,” said retired Real Estate Agent Jeff Jurach in an email to The Bee. “While the law requires disclosure, it does not protect one from failure to disclose.”
In some cases the value of a property can depreciate due to a death in the home, Jurach said.
There is one exception to the California Realtor law.
According to the California Association of Realtor’s, if a person died due to HIV or AIDS then the information doesn’t need to be disclosed to the buyer. The disclosure law was passed in 1986, and protects the seller from disclosing details of the death when a buyer brings the topic into question. The law was meant to protect against stigmatization and discrimination, The Los Angeles Times reported in 1990.
If a buyer asks a seller or listing agent about the history of the home, the listing agent is required to answer honestly about any deaths that have happened on the property, according to the California Association of Realtor’s. It does not matter how long ago the death occurred.
As a seller you must be prepared to answer the following questions related to the death on the property, according to the California Association of Realtor’s:
▪ Did the death occur on the property?
▪ Was the deceased an occupant of the property?
▪ Did the death occur in the last three years?
Although, some sellers may be hesitant to disclose a death because they don’t technically meet the criteria listed above, it’s best practice to always say what you do know.
Especially in cases where “the death was particularly notorious stigmatized the property such that it may have affected the property’s value or desirability,” according to the California Association of Realtor’s — murder, for example.
“A good standard is that if the seller is afraid that a buyer will cancel because of a disclosure, they should worry more about being sued for failure to disclose,” Jurach said.
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