California law requires homeowners to disclose any material defect a home might have before selling it. A material defect is any issue that would make a reasonable person think twice about acquiring a property. At a minimum, it would likely cause a buyer to reconsider paying full market value for it. In some cases, the fact that someone died in a house could be considered a significant flaw.
When did the death take place?
As a general rule, the seller only has to reveal that someone died while living in the home if the death occurred within the past three years. However, a seller is not allowed to lie if a buyer asks if anyone has ever died in the property. The same rule applies to a real estate agent, attorney or other parties who may represent a homeowner during a sale.
What happens if a disclosure isn’t made?
Buyers generally have the right to take action against sellers if there is reason to believe that mandatory disclosures weren’t made. If the omission was discovered before the sale is finalized, the buyer might be able to walk away from the deal without losing his or her earnest money. A real estate litigation attorney may be able to provide more insight into what rights you might have if the discovery is made after the sale is finalized.
For most people, their homes are the most expensive item that they will purchase in their lifetimes. Therefore, it is important to know everything about a property before acquiring it. An attorney may take steps to ensure that all necessary disclosures are made before you take possession of a house. He or she may also represent your interests in court if issues arise after this happens.