Does Ohio law require disclosure of a murder or suicide?
On May 6, 2013
By Peg Ritenour, OAR Vice President of Legal Services/Administration
It seems as if every week a broker calls the OAR Legal Assistance Hotline with the following question: Does Ohio law require me to disclose to a buyer that a murder or suicide took place on a property?
Here’s the answer we always give: Ohio law requires sellers and real estate licensees to disclose latent defects concerning the physical condition of the property of which they have knowledge. In the case of a murder or suicide, this event rarely affects the physical condition of the property and doesn’t constitute a latent defect.
It could, however, be considered to be a material fact that Ohio law also requires be disclosed. So what’s a material fact? It’s a fact that could impact a buyer’s decision to purchase the property or the terms on which they purchase the property. While some buyers may not consider a murder or suicide to be material others may.
Because this could be a material fact to some buyers, to avoid a potential lawsuit it is prudent to err on the side of caution and to disclose the murder or suicide to a buyer. The agent needs to discuss this issue with the seller and obtain his/her consent before doing so, however. Such consent from the seller and the disclosure to the buyer should be done in writing and should be made before the buyer is bound by a purchase agreement. If the seller will not permit disclosure of the event, the broker will need to determine if taking the listing is worth the risk of potentially having to defend a lawsuit by the buyer for failing to disclose what the buyer will allege was a material fact.
The last thing I usually tell brokers is that it’s never a question about whether or not the buyer will find out about the murder or suicide…it’s just a question of whether they will learn about it from you before they buy the house or from the next door neighbor afterwards. And trust me, buyers are always more upset when it’s the latter.