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Do You Need To Disclose a Death?

Most states require home sellers to reveal defects about a home to potential buyers, for example a leaky roof, broken appliances or cracked foundation. These things are considered “material facts” that must be disclosed to a buyer before the deal is closed. In some states, those real estate disclosure laws go so far as to include a death that has occurred in the home.

While many people wouldn’t be bothered about a death in a home, sometimes it’s a deal breaker. It can be a major issue for some buyers, California, Alaska and South Dakota require home sellers to reveal that information to all potential buyers.

States with Specific Requirements

In California, sellers must reveal if a death in the home has occurred anytime in the past three years, including death by natural causes. However certain types of deaths, like those from AIDS, are not to be disclosed. If a buyer comes out and asks about a death that occurred at any time, even longer than three years ago, the seller is required to provide a truthful response.

In Alaska and South Dakota, murders or suicides must be disclosed only if they happened within the past year. In other states, the laws are less black and white; a seller may need to disclose the information only if a buyer is to ask. To understand the death in home disclosure regulations in your area, you should get in touch with your local real estate agent.

Here in MARYLAND, DC and VIRGINIA… You don’t need to disclose a death in a home. Even if it was a murder or a suicide. That has nothing to do with the actual condition of the property, so you are not required to disclose that.

The Bottom Line

Most states subscribe to the notion of caveat emptor, or "buyer beware", in real estate sales. While sellers have certain obligations to their buyers, the buyer is responsible for doing their due diligence. If a buyer wants a home that no one has died in, they need to do their own research. Happy Hunting!!

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