Death in a home? Better to disclose it | nnbusinessview.com

Death in a home? Better to disclose it

Lisa Wetzel/Jim Valentine

The many disclosures in Nevada residential real estate cover a wide range of topics for the protection and comfort of the buyer, but there is an area that is often misunderstood by many people. Whether by urban legend or bringing their understanding across the state line with them from where they came, the duty of a seller, seller's agent or buyer's agent to disclose a death in a property is very often misunderstood.

Many buyers and a lot of agents are of the understanding that a death in a home must be disclosed. In fact, per Nevada Revised Statutes 40.770, "The site of a homicide, suicide or death by any other cause, except a death that results from a condition of the property … is not material to the transaction." In other words, in Nevada it is not required to be disclosed unless a condition of the home caused the death. Condition of the home can be toxins, defects, etc., that directly caused a death.

Also per NRS 40.770: "The site of any crime punishable as a felony other than a crime that involves the manufacturing of … methamphetamine … is not material to the transaction." This is important because of the toxins related to the manufacturing process. There are specific requirements for the remediation of the property in NRS 40.770.6. This is very important for a buyer to know and must be disclosed by the seller and agents.

The last of the "exceptions" in this law is a property "occupied by a person exposed to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or suffering from acquired deficiency syndrome (AIDS), or any other disease that is not known to be transmitted through occupancy of the property, is not material to the transaction." There is no requirement for the seller or agents to disclose disease unless it is known to be transmitted by occupancy.

Some people are sensitive to the idea of a death in a home, whether emotionally or spiritually. Agents must be sensitive themselves in such situations to their customer’s wants and needs.

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Another item that this law specifies that agents and sellers do not have to disclose is the fact that a sex offender lives in, or is expected to live in, the neighborhood. One more exclusion is the fact that a facility for transitional living for released offenders is nearby. For all of the exclusions in the law, NRS 40.770 goes on to say: "A Seller, Lessor, or Landlord or any Agent of the Seller, Lessor or Landlord is not liable to the Buyer, Lessee or Tenant in any action at law or in equity because of the failure to disclose any fact described in … (above clauses) that is not material to the transaction or of which the Agent of the Buyer, Lessee or Tenant had no actual knowledge."

Some people are sensitive to the idea of a death in a home, whether emotionally or spiritually. Agents must be sensitive themselves in such situations to their customer's wants and needs. The customer's desire for confirmation of a death in the home can be a customer need, not a want. We've had people ask, hoping to have a ghost to befriend. It can work both ways. The question itself doesn't sound a death knell on the transaction.

Our advice: Despite the specific declaration of the law regarding disclosures, there is the moral and ethical responsibility for an agent to protect his or her client's wishes. If a buyer asks a direct question that the agent(s) or seller(s) have true knowledge of, it seems proper to answer with the correct factual information regardless of what is legally required. Disclosing a death in a home may be harmful to a seller if a sale is lost, but it is better for the seller not to complete a sale to an unsuspecting buyer who may react with a lawsuit for not being told. Even though it isn't legally required to be disclosed, if a buyer had a clear and known objection to living in such a home, that condition must be respected just as their request for four bedrooms and a three-car garage should be.

A bedroom can be added, but some things just can't be changed; i.e., you can't undo death. When in doubt, disclose.

Lisa Wetzel & Jim Valentine, CDPE, SFR, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates, 775-781-5472, carsonvalleyland@hotmail.com, http://www.carsonvalleyland.com.