A recent ruling in Pennsylvania determined sellers do not have to disclose whether a murder, suicide, death, etc. has taken place in a home. The ruling says psychological damage cannot be considered a material defect, material defects must be disclosed to the seller and buyer. Superior Court President Judge Emeritus Kate Ford Elliot says stigmatized properties do not have to be disclosed. The ruling comes from the case Milliken V. Jacano, a 2006 incident where a murder-suicide took place in a home. Jacanos bought the property at auction 7 months later and sold it to Janet Milliken; but did not mention murder-suicide. Milliken found out the news 3 weeks after settlement and later sued sellers and brokers involved.
The issue becomes a slippery slope because if psychological defects are disclosed when is a line drawn? What types of deaths, how long ago was it, and would sellers then have to reveal about a loud or problem neighbor, that you can smell a sewage plant nearby.
The ruling basically says the buyer must practice their own due diligence. John LeCates a Realtor with Morgan Collins says, “It’s been a controversy for quite some time now it comes under the heading of what we call stigmatized properties which include deaths, murder, murder suicides, it even includes things like ghosts. In Pennsylvania the law states that is has to be something physical.” He offers some tips to avoid buying one of these houses, ” Add an addendum to the contract of sale. Put that in your offer for them to declare there was never anything like that happened. The other thing you can do especially now a days is google the address, google the street. And neighbors always help. You can walk in the house and they’re telling you everything they possibly can for the last 50 years about the house.”