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Legally speaking: Does a group home necessitate disclosure?

By Peg Ritenour, OAR Vice President of Legal Services/Administration

The OAR Legal Assistance Hotline receives an array of real estate-related legal questions — including license law issues, disclosure, contract law, ethics and commission problems, among others. In an effort to help you work within the law, “Legally Speaking” spotlights some of the timely questions that are being asked by REALTORS. This week involves a couple of questions that we received involving group homes…

Question 1: There is a group home for mentally disabled adults next door to a home I have listed for sale. As a listing agent, do I need to disclose this to prospective purchasers?

Question 2: I have been asked to represent an agency that is looking for a location for a group home for mentally disabled adults. As a buyer’s agent do I need to disclose that fact to the listing agent? Could the seller refuse to sell their house to the agency because they don’t want it  used as a group home?

A: Under both the federal and Ohio fair housing laws, you may not discriminate against persons that are disabled, including those that are mentally disabled. As to the first question, this means that just as you wouldn’t volunteer information regarding the racial or ethnic composition of the neighborhood, you should not volunteer information regarding the fact that the neighbors are mentally disabled.

As to the second question, certainly there is nothing in the law that would require that a buyer’s agent disclose the intent of a potential buyer to use the property for a group home. In fact, this intended use by the purchaser could be considered by the buyer  to be confidential information.  As such, the buyer’s agent should not disclose this information without the buyer’s consent. Certainly if this is disclosed to the seller, the seller could be found to have violated the fair housing laws by refusing to sell the property because of the disability of the intended residents.

Tags: legal, Legally Speaking