In studying for my real estate broker’s test (which is tomorrow), I ran across a question that I always took the answer to for granted… It ended up being a lot more complicated than I thought. Being an architect, I’m accustomed to having to fall back on codes or laws, and I’m always looking for a source. So I went to look for the answer to:
Is it required to disclose a murder on a property in Texas?
I have always thought the answer was yes. However, when checking the sources, I didn’t get an answer I really liked. I went first to the Texas Occupations Code, Chapter 1101, which is effectively the Texas Real Estate License Act. Here is what we have:
Sec. 1101.556. DISCLOSURE OF CERTAIN INFORMATION RELATING TO OCCUPANTS.
Notwithstanding other law, a license holder is not required to inquire about, disclose, or release information relating to whether:
(1) a previous or current occupant of real property had, may have had, has, or may have AIDS, an HIV-related illness, or an HIV infection as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States Public Health Service; or
(2) a death occurred on a property by natural causes,suicide, or accident unrelated to the condition of the property.
Added by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1421, Sec. 2, eff. June 1, 2003
Okay, then I went to the rules of the Texas Real Estate Commission. This has some additional items not included in the OC, but there I found nothing.
So, in Texas, one is not REQUIRED to disclose a murder in the house… HOWEVER, I went to the Texas Association of Realtors. Here I found a good summary (finally):
Must a seller disclose that a murder occurred on the property and, if so, how should this be done?(updated Jan. 1, 2002)
- 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.