Friday, July 11, 2014

Ask an Agent: Disclosure of a Death

As I was exploring the internet the other day, I found an interesting story where a woman found out through and A&E documentary that her house was home to a serial killer. She begged to be let out of her lease, but the landlord (who is also the killer's mother) refused. A lot of people argue that since the tenant was not notified of the house's grisly past she should have been allowed to move. But is a non-disclosure of death a legal reason for breaking a lease?

Some states require disclosure of deaths that have happened within a certain time frame or violent deaths. But Texas Property Code DOES NOT require notification of a death that occurred in the house not caused by the condition of the property (§ 5.008(c)). That means if a death was caused by the roof collapsing, disclosure is necessary. A death caused by suicide or murder, however, does not require disclosure.

That being said, you might want to consider disclosing a death if you do know about it. A tenant may find out through some other means, such as a busy-body neighbor or (as above) and A&E documentary. And finding out second-hand could put a strain on the tenant-landlord relationship, as the tenant may feel like the landlord was hiding something from them. It is best judged on a case-by-case basis. And, as always, if you have any questions or concerns on whether a death should be disclosed, speak to a real estate attorney for a real concrete answer.

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