In selling a house, the seller has a number of responsibilities that they must consider. For example, they will certainly need to tell the perspective buyer if there any faults with the home. Inspections and other practices can reveal a great deal, regardless of what the seller chooses to reveal, but it is still a responsibility of that seller to offer full disclosure.
- Does this include telling a potential buyer if a home is haunted?
- The answer is going to surprise you. To appreciate the answer in full, you are going to want to look closely at cases such as Stambovsky v. Ackley.
- What Is the Ghostbusters Ruling?
Whether or not there is existence beyond death is not for this article to decide. We can’t tell you if the paranormal is for real. However, we can tell you that ghost and haunted house culture in our society is profound. For example, even if you are an unshakable atheist, absolutely convinced that we only get one trip around the game of life, you still have to consider the potential paranormal beliefs of others. If you are going to sell someone a house, and you know that the house has a history of being “haunted”, if only in terms of the perceptions of others, then it is your responsibility to disclose that to a potential seller.
All of this sounds ridiculous, but it is not without legitimate legal precedent. Furthermore, you will also find that the law tends to favor haunted houses against plaintiffs in lawsuits, provided it can be proven that the individual was injured through their understanding of what the haunted house would entail.
A lot of this stuff can be traced back to a ruling that has since become known as the Ghostbusters Ruling. Also known as Stambovsky v. Ackley, the Ghostbusters Ruling essentially made it clear that if an individual had established in some form or fashion that their home was haunted, they would be required to tell a potential buyer about that later on. The law, basically states that if your house is considered to be legally haunted (Helen Ackley had reported her home to both Reader’s Digest and the local paper), then you have a responsibility to tell a potential buyer. In this case, the buyer was Jeffrey Stambovsky.
When Stambovsky discovered the home was haunted, he did two things.
Stambovsky v. Ackley Details
Upon learning that the house was considered to be haunted, Stambovsky made two gestures. The first gesture involved filing an action to basically call the whole thing off. The second thing he did was sue for the damages that were incurred through what he perceived to be fraudulent representation through Ackley and her real estate company.
The New York Supreme Court dismissed his action. Stambovsky opted to appeal. This was heard in the New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division. The majority opinion would wind up siding with Stambovsky. This opinion essentially stated that if haunted claims on a house had been in one or more national publications, then the seller could not fail to disclose that information later on. You can’t sell a house that you know is haunted, without disclosing the information. However, you can sell a house that you don’t think is haunted. If a potential buyer asks, you are under no directive to provide a concrete answer. Interestingly enough, the dissenting opinion insisted on strictly utilizing caveat emptor, the principle that the duty is on the buyer to discover any issues associated with any purchase.
Other Legal Considerations Regarding Haunted Houses
The aftermath of the case mentioned above has proven to be absolutely fascinating. The ruling continues to be upheld, and it has become a staple of textbooks, classrooms, and elsewhere.
The bottom line when selling a home, full disclosure remains vital.