Cooley professors discuss haunted house law

With Halloween to be celebrated in the coming days, Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School professors are sharing their thoughts regarding disclosing issues such as paranormal activity during a real estate transaction.

"In most areas of the country a home seller would not need to disclose their home is haunted, but laws differ by state or even local ordinances," said WMU-Cooley Professor Chris Trudeau.

"In Florida there is a stigma statute that absolves responsibility of disclosing HIV or past murders," said Professor Renalia DuBose, who teaches at WMU-Cooley's Tampa Bay campus.

Stambovsky v. Ackley in New York is widely taught in U.S. law school classes and is often cited by other courts. In this case, the state's Supreme Court said that a house, which the owner had previously advertised to the public as having paranormal activity, legally was haunted for the purpose of an action brought by a purchaser of the home.

"Under Stambovsky, when a homeowner tells others their home is haunted, they would have to disclose this information," said Trudeau. "If a home has a reputation, or is known as haunted, it will need to be disclosed. The house in the Stambovsky case had the reputation and had media coverage about it being haunted."

Trudeau notes that laws do differ by state, but the disclosure of psychologically affected properties depends on what others know and do not know. "Such disclosures would be positive under good faith," he said.

Depending on how much the seller thinks the home is haunted and the more an individual has publicly spoken about the haunted activities depends on what needs to be disclosed," said DuBose. "If it is just some inkling, one would not have to disclose, so it would vary on the amount of certainty of the owner. The more likely an individual thinks a home is haunted the more likely a disclosure is expected."

Published: Tue, Oct 25, 2016