Must a seller disclose that a murder occurred on the property and, if so, how should this be done?
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Section 5.008(c) of the Texas Property Code provides that “a seller or seller’s agent shall have no duty to make a disclosure or release information related to whether a death by natural causes, suicide, or accident unrelated to the condition of the property occurred on the property.” Murder is not covered by this “no duty” rule. Since a murder occurring on the property might be considered a material fact concerning the property that a buyer would want to know in deciding whether to purchase the property, it’s probably prudent for sellers to disclose this fact. TAR’s Seller’s Disclosure Notice (TAR 1406) contains a question that asks the seller about deaths not covered by the “no duty” rule. Where a murder has occurred on the property, the seller should answer this question in the affirmative. In explaining the “yes” answer, the seller is not required to explain in great detail the circumstances surrounding this death. The seller might include a statement that indicates more detailed information about the murder is available upon request. Since it is almost certain that the neighbors will inform buyers about deaths on the property, whether those deaths involve murder or any of the deaths covered by the “no duty” rule, sellers may choose to voluntarily disclose information about all deaths in order to avoid those situations where buyers concerned about deaths on the property want to terminate pending contracts.
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