Seller Disclosures and The Dead Files

Much time was spent the past month in my broker licensing classes discussing seller disclosures – what constituted a material fact, what must be disclosed, what need not be, what responsibilities a real estate agent has in terms of disclosures. Listing agents generally (or at least should) recommend sellers disclose as much as possible about their property to fall on the side of safety and reduce their liability. The Sellers Property Disclosure Statement (SPDS) provided by the Arizona Regional MLS even starts with the admonition, “when in doubt, disclose.”

There are, however, notable exceptions to what a buyer might find in the seller disclosures. For instance, the SPDS does not have a section dealing with deaths on a property. There’s no mention of felonies on a property, other than a passing reference to unremediated meth labs. You won’t find a place where sellers disclose whether their are sex offenders in the area.

Those may seem like relevant, material facts and to some – but not all buyers – they might be. Those items, however, all fall under Arizona’s stigmatized property statute. ARS 32-2156, passed in 1995, says the following:

A. No criminal, civil or administrative action may be brought against a transferor or lessor of real property or a licensee for failing to disclose that the
property being transferred or leased is or has been:
1. The site of a natural death, suicide or homicide or any other crime classified as a felony.
2. Owned or occupied by a person exposed to the human immunodeficiency virus or diagnosed as having the acquired immune deficiency syndrome or any other disease that is not known to be transmitted through common occupancy of real estate.
3. Located in the vicinity of a sex offender.
B. Failing to disclose any fact or suspicion as set forth in subsection A shall not be grounds for termination or rescission of any transaction in which real property has been or will be transferred or leased.

The statute goes on to say that a property owner can include that information in the seller disclosures if they so choose, but they don’t need to do. And when a listing agent, who otherwise is required to disclose material facts about a property, is asked about the above topics, they legally can demur and cite the statute.

What brought this to mind what was watching multiple episodes of The Dead Files on Travel Channel. In several of the episodes, it was suggested that the owners of the purportedly haunted property filled with shadow creatures, demons, dead people, etc. move out and make sure no one else ever ever ever lives on the property again.

It’s noble if impractical advise. And here in Arizona, should the seller elect not to mention the ax murder that took place in the second bedroom, they don’t have to do so.

What’s a buyer’s recourse? Research. Use the Google. Or, if you want your 15 minutes of fame, call in The Dead Files post-possession to check out the … um … possession.

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at allphoenixrealestate.com.

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