Q: I am a real estate broker and I currently have an exclusive listing for a property where an infamous crime (including a murder) took place a number of years ago. Must I disclose this fact to potential buyers?
A: No, a seller’s agent is prohibited from disclosing this information to a prospective buyer without the consent of the seller.
A seller’s agent must disclose to prospective buyers "all facts known to the agent materially affecting the value or desirability of the property." According to the Section 443-a of the New York State Real Property Law (which is also referred to as the "Stigmatized Property Law"):
"…it is not a material defect or fact relating to property
offered for sale or lease… that:
(a) an owner or occupant of the property is, or was at any time suspected to be, infected with [HIV] or diagnosed with [AIDS] or any other disease which has been determined by medical evidence to be highly unlikely to be transmitted through occupancy of a dwelling place; or
(b) the property is, or is suspected to have been, the site of a homicide, suicide or other death by accidental or natural causes, or any crime punishable as a felony."
If such information relating to a death or crime at a particular property is important to a buyer, the buyer may submit a written inquiry for such information to the seller. The seller may choose whether or not to respond to the inquiry.
Important Tip: If a buyer’s agent is aware of a death or a crime at a property that the buyer is interested in, the buyer’s agent should disclose such information to the buyer
The Legal Line Question by:
Neil B. Garfinkel
REBNY Broker Counsel
Partner-in-charge of real estate and banking practices at Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson, LLP