A Spook-tacular Q&A from the Legal Hotline

Q. I’ve listed a house that is rumored to be haunted – does this need to be disclosed to prospective buyers?

A. Disclosure in this situation is only required if asked. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93, Section 114 specifically states “[t]he fact or suspicion that real property may be or is psychologically impacted shall not be deemed to be a material fact required to be disclosed in a real estate transaction.” The definition of “psychologically impacted” includes properties that were the site of a felony, suicide, or homicide, or the site of parapsychological or supernatural phenomenon. If a consumer does ask, however, the broker or salesperson must answer the question regarding the stigma honestly and to the best of his or her knowledge. A seller or their REALTOR® who makes false or misleading statements in response to a direct inquiry may be subject to liability.

These “psychological impacts” do not require affirmative disclosure because they are not actual defects of the property itself. The Consumer Protection Act, commonly referred to as Chapter 93A, only requires disclosure of known defects that may influence a potential buyer not to enter into a real estate transaction. A REALTOR® is not under any obligation to investigate or otherwise discover defects. If you are representing a buyer, be sure to determine whether this is an important issue to your client. If it is, be sure that the question is asked.