The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently ruled that a home seller and agent can be sued for failing to disclose a murder/suicide in a house for sale. In Milliken v. Jacono, homebuyers sued sellers and agents for failing to disclose that a murder/suicide of a husband and wife had occurred in the house. The homebuyers alleged various categories of fraud and misrepresentation regarding the sale including the violation of Pennsylvania’s Real Estate Disclosure Law.
The homebuyers alleged the suicide/murder was a material defect because it had a substantial impact on the value of the house. Citing reports from two real estate appraisers, the homebuyer alleged that the murder/suicide lowered the value of the property between ten and fifteen percent. The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the murder/suicide could qualify as a material defect requiring disclosure under the Real Estate Seller Disclosure Law (RESDL). A material defect is defined as, among other things, “A problem with a residential real property or any portion of it that would have a significant adverse impact on the value of the property or that involves an unreasonable risk to people on the property.” The Superior Court found that this was sufficient evidence to submit the issue to a jury for a factual determination.
The homebuyer also that had she known of the murder suicide, she would not have purchased the property. The Court held that this was also a basis to submit the fraud and misrepresentations claims to the jury.