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Buy a house - no you do not have a right to know its history

Home for Sale
Home for Sale (CC)

Hollywood practically has a cottage industry on this theme. People buy a house thinking it's just fine, and then everything goes horribly wrong. Whether it's massive problems with the house itself that were just under the surface, or spectral residents torturing the new owners, it's been shown on the silver screen multiple ways. While new homeowners generally have legal avenues to rectify physical problems with a house that were hidden from them before the sale, the history of a property isn't necessarily something that sellers (or landlords) have to share.

With a few exceptions, there generally aren't laws out there requiring that a home seller or landlord tell people about negative aspects of a house's history before closing a deal. That means that in most states, it's possible for someone to buy a house where a murder occurred, and the previous owner wouldn't be in any legal trouble for neglecting to mention that detail.

It's tempting to file this under "there should be a law," primarily because the history of a house can affect its market value. While it's not likely that the supernatural problems depicted in movies would happen, there is still the "icky" factor that would cause many people to pass on moving into a house where there was a murder or suicide, for example. What do you think? Should home sellers and landlords have a legal obligation to disclose not only physical defects of a property, but also events that occurred in the home that might diminish the property value or simply make potential buyers or renters avoid them?

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