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Supreme Court Rules on Disclosure

On July 21, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously decided that a murder-suicide in a property is not a material defect that a seller has to disclose to a buyer. The history of Milliken v. Jacono is well-known to REALTORS, click here for details of the highly-publicized case.
The Supreme Court's ruling contained several important points:
  • The Court commented that using a disclosure form that revealed more information about a property than the law required does not create additional mandatory disclosure requirements.
  • The Court stated that it was "not ready to accept that [a psychological stigma] constitutes a material defect." The Court observed that requiring quantification of the psychological impact of various traumatizing events would be a "sisyphean task".
  • It was recognized the psychologically traumatic events do not result in defects to the structure of the house; they do not affect the quality of real estate. It was noted that it would be nearly impossible to assign a monetary value to psychological stigma.
  • Lastly, and importantly for buyers' agents, the murder-suicide was absolutely not a latent event. It was widely publicized in the local media and on the Internet, and it was a well-known event within the neighborhood. The doctrine of caveat emptor still survives and places the responsibility on the buyers to ensure the property they are buying meets their needs. In the words of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, "Purely psychological stigmas are not material defects of property that sellers must disclose to buyers". 

Keller Williams Real Estate

Todd Reed

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