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Buyer Beware: Should a Home's Gory Past Be Disclosed?

A Delaware County woman filed a lawsuit when she found out her home was the site of a murder-suicide in 2006.

An ABC News report published Monday raises the question of whether home sellers should be legally required to disclose that a home was the scene of a bloody crime. 

According to the article, Janet Milliken, 59, purchased a home in Thornton, near Chadds Ford in Delaware County, and later learned it was the scene of a grisly crime:

She bought a home in Thornton, Pa., for $610,000 in June 2007. She learned a few weeks after she moved in from a next-door neighbor that a murder-suicide had occurred the year before in her home.

She sued the seller and the real estate agent for fraud and misrepresentation, saying they made a "deliberate choice not to disclose the home's recent past," according to a court document.

The trial judge granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, saying state law does not require agents to disclose such events.

The judge's ruling was upheld by an appeals court, but Milliken appealed to the state Supreme Court.

A Philly.com article on the same case offered a suggestion for prospective homebuyers:

The upshot to Milliken v. Jacono et al: If living within a former crime scene would keep you from a night's sleep, ask for a written warranty in the agreement of sale that states the home was never the site of a murder, suicide or other felony.

Tell Us

Did you find out something unsettling about your home after purchasing it?

Should home sellers be legally required to disclose murders and other violent crimes that occurred in a home?  

If so, should there be a statute of limitations on how long after the fact that rule applies?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

[Edited Jan. 30 9:15pm to correct that Thornbury Township is in Delaware County, not Chester County.]

Regina Fried January 30, 2013 at 12:11 PM
I do think this type of information should be disclosed. Aside from keeping "you from a night's sleep," it could affect your ability to sell the property yourself should you decide to do so in the future and find that others are aware of the home's history and will not buy it for that reason. Perhaps a seven year statute of limitations (five seems too short a period of time; ten too long).
Regina DiLabbio Klugh King January 30, 2013 at 12:30 PM
Death is death. It happens everywhere, every day in homes everywhere. As sad as a tragic, crime scene can be, unless crowds of curiosity seekers are known to throng to a place (Amityville Horror), why should it matter for future real estate values? My Dad used to say: "The dead can't hurt is, it's the living we should be afraid of." He was never more right than today's headlines. If legally we must disclose structural issues (like radon, fires, sewer back ups, etc), I guess we need to reveal episodes of sadness and negative vibes within walls. So, might I suggest that along with a home inspection, have properties screened by ghost-hunting teams as well. Hey -- that just might be my next-ticket career! Open up a window and let the sun shine in! Works for me!
Mildred Roberts January 30, 2013 at 02:43 PM
RDKK, eschew that lengthy name and simply call yourself "Pollyanna"... Meanwhile, what about disclosure of haunted houses?
Tom Bates January 30, 2013 at 03:17 PM
Do you believe in ghosts?
Rebecca Solomon January 30, 2013 at 04:57 PM
Totally agree.
Chris Sullivan January 30, 2013 at 05:07 PM
Is there anyone among who wouldn't want to know this as a buyer? The seller and broker withheld this information because they knew it would affect the value of the home. They were looking for a sucker unfamiliar with the house's history. If you're buying a used car, and the car was in an accident or flood - even if the car runs perfectly now - you have to disclose that. That sort of full disclosure of major events should apply to properties as well.
Beth Alois January 31, 2013 at 02:11 AM
Thornton is in Thornbury Township, DELAWARE County, not Thornbury Township, Chester County. Have a a little sympathy for the real estate agents. Our PA Real Estate Commission has made this a matter of ethics for us, and we must abide by their direction. If you don't like it, contact the Real Estate Commission.
Pete Kennedy (Editor) January 31, 2013 at 02:19 AM
Right you are, Beth. Thanks for the catch. The county has been corrected and the change noted. Sorry for the error.
djbemom January 31, 2013 at 04:19 AM
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.....The courts have ruled that this does not HAVE to be disclosed. But simply because it doesn't have to be doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't disclose. I have seen a similar case. The property was marketed as usual but when someone came back for a second time or expressed interest in buying the situation was disclosed to the buyer. The property did sell. The buyer made an informed decision to buy. The spirit of full disclosure always works best in the end.

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