Does Illinois License Act require disclosure of ‘haunted house?’

Bigstock photo

Bigstock photo

A common question around Halloween usually involves whether listing brokers must disclose the history of stigmatized properties, whether that history includes ghosts, violent crimes or death.

Betsy Urbance, Illinois REALTORS® Legal Hotline Attorney, cites the Illinois Real Estate License Act, Section 15-20 and says licensees have no legal duty to disclose facts that have no direct and detrimental physical impact on the property.

“Stigmas are subjective,” Urbance says. “What is a problem for one buyer might not be an issue for another buyer. Listing brokers and sellers of Illinois real estate do not have a legal duty to disclose a stigma, such as the fact that the house was the site of a violent crime. They would not have a legal duty to disclose that someone believes the house is haunted.

“The listing broker’s company might have a policy that would prohibit dual agency in a situation where the property might be stigmatized. If the buyer broker has ‘actual knowledge’ of the stigma, the buyer broker should disclose to his client or send the client to published sources of information. Keep in mind that no licensee can legally disclose that an occupant was afflicted with HIV or any other medical condition,” she says. “To do this would be a discrimination issue.

“Finally, depending on the situation, sellers might elect to disclose a stigma even if there is no legal duty. The reason a seller might instruct his broker to disclose is in order to ‘trump’ the neighbors. The neighbors always tell. There is no exception to that rule (stated only slightly sarcastically).”

Homeowner shares story about his house

In NAR’s REALTOR Mag this month, a journalist writes about his own experience with unexplained occurrences in a home he and his wife purchased near Bryan, Ohio. Read “Lessons from my own stigmatized property.”

2 thoughts on “Does Illinois License Act require disclosure of ‘haunted house?’

  1. While there is no duty to disclose stigmas, it should also be pointed out that the Code of Ethics does prohibit a REALTOR(R) from lying. Thus, if a listing REALTOR(R) has knowledge of a stigma and is asked directly by the buyer or buyer’s agent, he/she cannot give a false answer. Either the seller has to authorize the listing agent to disclose the stigma or the lister must reply that he/she is not at liberty to answer the question.

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