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What to Do If You Bought a Haunted House

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

It's fun to tell ghost stories and imagine things that go bump in the night, so long as they don't involve your own home. Thinking of angry spirits stalking the halls of your new house doesn't exactly lend itself to a good night's sleep.

With Halloween just around the corner, many folks will be decorating their homes to look haunted, but what if it turns out your house is actually haunted -- is there anything you can do? Well, that may depend on whether the seller told you the house was haunted.

Duty to Disclose Demons in a Dwelling

There are some courts that ruled that home sellers must tell potential home buyers whether a house is haunted. One of the most famous cases in the area is Stambovsky v. Ackley, wherein the home's owner continually touted the presence of poltergeists both in the local papers and even Readers' Digest. But Ackley never told Stambovsky about the specters, and a New York appellate court allowed the buyer to rescind the purchase contract and get his down payment back.

Mandatory Mentions of Murders in the Mansion

Some states include deaths on the property as "material facts" that must be revealed to a prospective home buyer. For instance, California Civil Code 1710.2 requires sellers to affirmatively acknowledge any deaths in the house if they happened within the last three years and, if asked, they must admit to any deaths beyond that period.

Pennsylvania, on the other hand, has no such requirements about the homicidal history of a house. The state's supreme court ruled that sellers of a home did not have to reveal that a murder-suicide had occurred in the house, saying that "the potential impact a psychological stigma may have on the value of property" did not constitute a material defect.

So before you buy a house, be careful and ask about any apparitions in the abode. And if you need to get the ghosts out of your house -- or get out yourself -- you may want to have a séance with an experienced real estate attorney near you.

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