Hauntings – Should sellers disclose?

Halloween raised the ghostly topic of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. Under these, should an agent disclose whether a house is haunted. Of course, an agent may well take the view that they do not believe in ghosts. 

However, according to a UK Gallup poll, 40% of respondents believed houses can be haunted, which means that a fair chunk of the public might want to steer well clear of ghostly homes. 

Lawyer Mark Roberston said “A haunting may therefore affect an average buyer’s decision to buy a property and its value. Disclosure may be the best course”. 

Under CPRs, an agent has to disclose anything that could affect a potential tenant or purchasers “transactional” decision – not just purchase, but whether to view in the first place. Nervy types might therefore not even want to step inside a house said to have a resident ghost. 

Agents have, by now, become used to making the reasonable steps required under CPRs to investigating possible problems such as lack of planning consents which could constitute the “material information” that should be disclosed to buyers. But Ghosts? Well, that hasn’t been tested here. However, Roberston tells us that it was tested in America, in 1991. 

In Stambovsky v Ackle, a New York court ruled that a buyer, could reverse a sale contract because the seller had not revealed the houses reputation as being haunted.

The closest we have come to such a case in this country was in 2004, in Sykes v Taylor-Rose. Here the court found that a seller was not obliged to reveal that a gruesome child murder had been committed at the property. However, that was back in the days of the Property Misdescriptions Act. It would now be very different. 

So if your current vendor goes by the name of Morticia Addams and has an uncle called Fester, you’d better find out a bit more.