You would like to sell your house, and you know that a suicide or violent death occurred there. Do you have to tell potential buyers about it?
To Declare or not to Declare? Honesty is the best policy.
When you sign a brokerage contract with a real-estate agent to sell your house, you must complete the form Declarations by the Seller of the Immovable. It includes a specific question about whether a suicide or violent death occurred in the house. If you don’t answer, or if your answer is dishonest, you’re misleading the buyers. You could face a legal action from them.
If you are selling without an agent, you don’t have to fill out the Declarations by the Seller of the Immovable form, and you’re not required to mention the suicide or violent death. However, if the buyer shows any specific concerns or asks questions about this topic, you can’t lie or hold back information.
In the two real-life cases summarized below, the buyers were awarded compensation by a judge.
Suicide in the master bedroom
In a case decided last summer, a woman bought a house after being told that a suicide had occurred in the shed on the property. After she moved in, a neighbour told her that the suicide had actually taken place in the master bedroom and that the seller was aware of this. The buyer sued the seller for compensation.
The judge ruled in favour of the buyer. The seller should have been honest. She didn’t fulfill her responsibility to act in good faith and she misled the buyer. The judge ordered the seller to pay $10,000 in compensation for loss of value to the house, because the suicide had occurred in the master bedroom rather than in the shed.
Undeclared suicide pact
In 2011, a man bought a house in which the former owners died in a suicide pact. He renovated the house and put it up for sale a year later. His real estate agent told him he had to mention the suicide pact in the Declarations by the Seller of the Immovable form, but he did not want to. He therefore decided to sell the house on his own and hid the information about the suicide from the young buyers who were interested in the property.
After they learned of the suicide, the buyers asked to cancel the sale. The judge ruled in their favour because they weren’t aware of all the facts when they agreed to the purchase. In addition to the cancellation of the sale, they received $15,000 to compensate them for the stress they experienced and the trouble of moving to temporary accommodations.