A couple of years ago I wrote a post (When I sell my house do I need to disclose a death by suicide if the death by suicide occurred 10 years ago) about whether a home seller was required to disclose a death by suicide if it occurred on their property and it occurred after the mandated three-year time frame for disclosure. Recently I have received several inquiries on the subject so I thought I would look into the question again, but from the perspective of any death that occurs on the property.
Disclosure: I am not an attorney nor do I play one on T.V. Readers who require specific advice about their individual situation should consult a qualified attorney.
California Civil Code Section (CCCS) 1710.2 basically states that a death on a property must be disclosed if it occurred within three years of an offer on the property. According to CCCS 1710.2, a seller doesn’t have to disclose a death on a property if it occurred after the three-year time frame.
Real estate disclosure law also stipulates that a seller and his/her agent must disclose any fact of which they have knowledge that could be material to a buyer’s decision to purchase the property. Facts about the property are considered material if their disclosure would affect the value or desirability of the property. Is a death on a property a material fact that affects the value or desirability of the property? It could be.
For some buyers, a death (no matter how long ago) is a material fact. For others, it doesn’t matter. Does a seller have to disclose how the person died? Well, sort of.
For example, a home comes on the market. An interested buyer has his agent ask the listing agent if there has been a death on the property within the last three years. If the listing agent replies with a yes, the next question is “How?”
There is one exception to this disclosure requirement, AIDS. Disclosure of a death caused by AIDS is considered discriminatory and can’t be disclosed regardless of time frame. So when you ask a listing agent how the person died and they respond that they can’t tell you, it is probably because the person’s death was caused by AIDS.
Note: if you have concerns about a death on the property, make sure your agent specifically asks the listing agent the question. I suggest asking the question via e-mail so you have a record of the discussion.
What I have found in almost 20 years in selling homes locally is that most sellers don’t want to talk about a death on their property much less disclose it. They also are aware that when a death has been disclosed, regardless of time frame, the home is likely to sell for less.
Legally a death on a property must be disclosed if it occurred within three years of an offer on the property unless it is AIDS related. A seller is not legally required to disclose a death that has occurred after the three-year time frame. However, try telling a buyer who just closed on such a home that legally the seller does not have to disclose the death because it occurred outside the “legally mandated time window.”