I was reading a post written by Jason Offutt on his blog From the Shadows, and he mentioned that when selling haunted property in Indiana, there are laws that require real estate agents to disclose the haunting. I was a little shocked by that...but I'm not too surprised. I'm not surprised that a haunting is considered a stigma when selling a house, but I am surprised that the state would require that a haunting be disclosed. Who gets to decide whether or not a property is haunted?
I did a little more looking around, and an article I found in the Wall Street Journal says that in 44 states and Washington, DC, a haunting falls under a category of 'psychological stigmas' (although that doesn't necessarily mean that realtors are automatically required to disclose a haunting since it is considered a non-material factor, but they shouldn't lie about it if someone asks) . Another article I found mentioned a court case from New York named Stambovsky v. Ackley, where a home buyer (Stambovsky) sued to rescind the sales contract for the house he bought after he found out it was haunted. The haunting had not been disclosed to Stambovsky, and he won the case!
I wasn't able to find a list of states that require that a haunting be disclosed, but I got the impression that the laws vary state to state (and may not always be totally clear), and that it's not necessarily required that real estate agents disclose whether or not a house is haunted up front, but they should respond truthfully if a potential buyer asks.
Interesting nonetheless. In the Stambovsky v. Ackley case, there were publications (including Readers Digest) that reported the house as being haunted. But what if there were no published accounts of the house being haunted? What else could a court go by in making a decision? Who would get to decide whether or not a house was haunted? Stambovsky had the benefit of buying a house that had been previously reported as being haunted, but what if there was a case where there were no prior reports for a haunting? My guess is, if there were not prior reports of a property being haunted, it would be difficult to win a court case to rescind a sales contract.