What are the ramifications when a real estate disclosure is misleading, and nasty surprises are revealed after sale?
May 21, 2009 7:08 AM Subscribe
What happens when you buy a house with an unfortunate history (suicide) that has been disclosed, but no one bothers to tell you that the victim's blood is hidden under the new carpeting?
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (38 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
I have just purchased an older home in California, which had been on the market for many months. It was being sold by a local realtor for an out-of-state trustee. After I bid on the property, the seller's agent contacted my realtor with a disclosure: the previous owner had committed suicide in the house. Because of the resident's death, no other information was available, but I really liked the house, so after asking for and receiving additional information on the suicide—that it was with a gun, that the victim was elderly, that it happened in a back room that would not play a central role in my daily life—decided I was willing to live with the sad history. Inspectors came and said the house was sound, so I bought it.
Late last week the seller's agent happened to be at the house on the day that escrow closed, and introduced himself. He was friendly, and asked about my plans for the property. I told him I liked it pretty much as it was, but had pulled up some of the wall-to-wall carpeting and preferred the hardwood floors underneath, so planned to have them cleaned and buffed. He told me about another house he had sold for the same family that also had nice hardwood under carpeting, and after some small talk, he left.
Flash forward to Monday. My hardwood flooring contractors call me and say they have found something I need to see. They have pulled up the carpets and padding in the living room and each room off the hall, finding floors with some minor stains and scuffs that they think will clean up nicely, and have finally reached the central hall. They pulled up the hall carpet and the underlying pad, and this is when they call me.
Here they found a hideous scene: between the new carpet padding and the hardwood is a thick layer of dried, saturated blood and crunchy tissue which appears to be brains. The residue runs the entire length of the hallway, some 15 feet, with distinct lines at each of the five doorways. Despite the disclosure that the shooting happened in the back room, the blood evidence makes it clear that the suicide closed himself off in the smallest area of the house, the hallway, and shot himself there. The body was removed, the walls repainted, but the residue of the shooting was never cleaned up. Instead, someone had laid down new carpeting to give the impression of cleanliness.
I'm not a squeamish person by nature, but I was badly shaken by this discovery. Thankfully, the flooring crew said they knew how to handle the mess and could sand the stains away, and they did so that day. They also had to sand the rest of the floors, to match the diminished height of the hall floors, and the cost and length of my flooring job increased accordingly.
I am wondering now what I should do and what I can expect from the seller's realtor and the seller. There are issues surrounding the misleading disclosure (wrong room), and beyond that, the fact that I was sold a bio-hazard deliberately disguised as a livable environment. I have searched real estate law online, but this is such an outrageous and bizarre situation that I'm not finding any case studies that apply.
If you have any insight into possible ways that this situation might play out, what I ought to do and who I should talk to, who might be liable and for what, I would appreciate it. Of course I will be talking at length with my agent, but I hope the hive mind can provide some ideas and talking points.
(Posting anonymously because I'd rather not be known as the person who lives in the house that dripped blood. But if you have questions or want to reply anonymously, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)