Seller Disclosure – Murder Might Have to be Disclosed

Many sellers and even agents are very casual when filling out the seller’s disclosure, rarely do issues arise. However, some seller’s “forget” to disclose things like insurance claims, homicides, termite issues, criminal activity, unpermitted work and more. It doesn’t matter when something occurred, if the seller or agent has knowledge of it and is asked it has to be disclosed. It would be prudent for both sellers and buyers to read the GA Real Estate Commission laws on what a seller and agent are required to disclose.

Back to homicides – double homicides in fact.

A Toronto estate firm, agent and the home sellers are being sued for failing to disclose that a home they sold had been the scene of a double homicide 15 years ago. Current home owners Eric and Sade-Lea Tekoniemi claim that the murders have “stigmatized, psychologically impacted, and tainted the property,” according to the lawsuit. Sade-Lea Tekoniemi alleges she has suffered depression and sleep and mood disorder from the horrific images in her mind from the murders that took place in the home. They say they want to sell the home but are looking to recover some of the depreciation in the home’s value since the disclosure had not been made to them.

“I suffered panic attacks and am still on anxiety medication,” Sade-Lea Tekoniemi said Monday of her response to living in the house. Eric Tekoniemi noted he also felt stress at work and less companionship at home. The uncertainty about his wife’s health and the frequent trips to the emergency room were hard on him, too.

Although the couple said they wanted to cancel the $253,000 sale as soon as they learned of the house’s history, their lawyer said it was too late because they were legally bound under terms of the deal. But the Tekoniemis decided to sue those involved in the sale of the split-level, partial-brick house, with a claim filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

He stabbed his mother 34 times and the child 89 times. The little girl was left lying on the floor with a knife embedded in her heart.

Ron England, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, murdered his mother, Marian Johnston, 74, and stepdaughter, Jenny, 6, in the home on April 2, 1996. He stabbed his mother 34 times and the child 89 times. The little girl was left lying on the floor with a knife embedded in her heart.

The Tekoniemis are seeking $450,000 in damages plus costs, from Re/Max First Realty, agent Mary Roy, and former owners Arthur Hewer and Sharron Lindsay, who had themselves purchased the home several years earlier. “Lawyers say the case involves a grey area in common law on the issue of ‘duty to disclose’ — and how to assess what information that entails,” The Toronto Star reports.

Gray area? A double murder occurs in the home that you’re selling and that’s not something that you think you need to disclose? There are sellers that purposefully attempt to hide issues, buyers need to be prudent. If a buyer suspects issues, have the agent formally request an explanation in writing: “can you please explain what you know about…..” In the event trouble develops later, this will help support claims of failure to disclose.

And remember, neighbors talk – a lot. If a seller has issues in the home like mold, foundation issues, water issues, fire damage…..chances are that sooner or later word will come out. The last thing a seller wants is a call months after a sale that starts with, “Hello, I’m representing the buyers of the home you sold; you know, the one where the double murder occurred”. Fill those seller disclosures out accurately and truthfully – and tell the listing agent of any issues as well.

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