Tragedy Struck! Do We Tell Applicants About the Previous Renter’s Death?

With Halloween around the corner, the world invites spooks, scares, and all the ghost stories a person could want. It’s the time for Horror Fests and Haunted Houses, maybe even some roasted marshmallows if that’s what floats your boat. Maybe that’s not your scene, because you have a real ‘haunted’ house.

Whether your property is ‘actually’ haunted or some kids living on your property trying to create fun out of nothing is an unimportant factor. Should a potential resident bring the question up and a leasing agent or property manager replies with ‘that’s just a rumor,’ the applicant won’t appreciate such an answer. After all, that’s what anyone trying to hide a haunting would say! And if they ask, ‘I heard someone died on the property,’ there are only so many ways you can answer. Can you lie to protect your interests? Or is honesty the only legal option?

With Halloween around the corner, the world invites spooks, scares, and all the ghost stories a person could want. It’s the time for Horror Fests and Haunted Houses, maybe even some roasted marshmallows if that’s what floats your boat. Maybe that’s not your scene, because you have a real ‘haunted’ house.

Whether your property is ‘actually’ haunted or some kids living on your property trying to create fun out of nothing is an unimportant factor. Should a potential resident bring the question up and a leasing agent or property manager replies with ‘that’s just a rumor,’ the applicant won’t appreciate such an answer. After all, that’s what anyone trying to hide a haunting would say! And if they ask, ‘I heard someone died on the property,’ there are only so many ways you can answer. Can you lie to protect your interests? Or is honesty the only legal option?

Are rental property owners and their property management team required to tell every applicant that someone died on the premises?

Are rental property owners and their property management team required to tell every applicant that someone died on the premises?

Psychologically Impacted Properties

When someone dies, the property isn’t usually gravely affected (pun not intended). Their death is not like a large earthquake shaking the timbers in the halls. Most deaths do not cause massive damage. The death of a resident doesn’t impact the property, but it does impact the property. Psychologically speaking.

Bit of a misnomer, yes. Your house doesn’t have a psychology in the first place! It’s not like the house with the Bad Case of Stripes that needed a visit from a friendly old psychiatrist. When a death occurs on a property, it becomes psychologically impacted because it can affect the mental well-being of the current occupant and your other residents.  By alerting a potential applicant to the death on the premises, it can deter them from deciding they want to live there.

Deep Cleaning

Psychologically Impacted Properties

When someone dies, the property isn’t usually gravely affected (pun not intended). Their death is not like a large earthquake shaking the timbers in the halls. Most deaths do not cause massive damage. The death of a resident doesn’t impact the property, but it does impact the property. Psychologically speaking.

Bit of a misnomer, yes. Your house doesn’t have a psychology in the first place! It’s not like the house with the Bad Case of Stripes that needed a visit from a friendly old psychiatrist. When a death occurs on a property, it becomes psychologically impacted because it can affect the mental well-being of the current occupant or your other residents.  By alerting a potential applicant to the death on the premises, it can deter them from deciding they want to live there.

After a death on the property, you will want to make sure the place is cleaned and cleaned thoroughly. Dead bodies release gas and other… particles that can spread and contaminate. There are horror stories of property managers who only found out about a renter’s unfortunate passing because of the smell of discomposure.

Deep Cleaning

After a death on the property, you will want to make sure the place is cleaned and cleaned thoroughly. Dead bodies release gas and other… particles that can spread and contaminate. There are horror stories of property managers who only found out about a renter’s unfortunate passing because of the smell of discomposure.

Death Disclosure

This seems like a no-brainer. You don’t want a vacancy and you’re not selling the place. Real estate agents who are selling obviously have to disclose if someone recently passed on the property, but a renter? They can move out much easier than someone who owns a place. Legally speaking, do you really have to?

Possibly.

This is not a federally mandated statute which allows every state to decide what is right or wrong within their boundaries. For example, California Code, Civil Code – CIV § 1710.2 writes that landlords do not have to voluntarily alert potential tenants to the passing on the property:

“… an owner of real property or his or her agent, or any agent of a transferee of real property, is not required to disclose either of the following to the transferee, as these are not material facts that require disclosure: the occurrence of an occupant's death upon the real property or the manner of death where the death has occurred more than three years prior to the date the transferee offers to purchase, lease, or rent the real property.”

CIV § 1710.2

In layman’s terms, if an applicant asks, the rental property owner or their team must answer, but they do not have to bring it up themselves. However, if their death is related to HIV or AIDS status, the answer can become more dicey. Remember, ask a lawyer in your area for more specifications.

This California law is similar to the Georgian law,  O.C.G.A. 44-1-1, where again, property owners don’t have to bring it up themselves, but must answer honestly when asked.

On the other side of the spectrum, plenty of states have laws that say landlords don’t have to tell prospective renters. For example, New Mexico states, “a seller, lessor or landlord of real property, including a participant in an exchange of real property and any agent involved in such a transaction, shall not be liable for failure to disclose” anything including natural death, unnatural death, or any felony.

Death Disclosure

This seems like a no-brainer. You don’t want a vacancy and you’re not selling the place. Real estate agents who are selling obviously have to disclose if someone recently passed on the property, but a renter? They can move out much easier than someone who owns a place. Legally speaking, do you really have to?

Possibly.

This is not a federally mandated statute which allows every state to decide what is right or wrong within their boundaries. For example, California Code, Civil Code – CIV § 1710.2 writes that landlords do not have to voluntarily alert potential tenants to the passing on the property:

“… an owner of real property or his or her agent, or any agent of a transferee of real property, is not required to disclose either of the following to the transferee, as these are not material facts that require disclosure: the occurrence of an occupant's death upon the real property or the manner of death where the death has occurred more than three years prior to the date the transferee offers to purchase, lease, or rent the real property.”

CIV § 1710.2

In layman’s terms, if an applicant asks, the rental property owner or their team must answer, but they do not have to bring it up themselves. However, if their death is related to HIV or AIDS status, the answer can become more dicey. Remember, ask a lawyer in your area for more specifications.

This California law is similar to the Georgian law,  O.C.G.A. 44-1-1, where again, property owners don’t have to bring it up themselves, but must answer honestly when asked.

On the other side of the spectrum, plenty of states have laws that say landlords don’t have to tell prospective renters. For example, New Mexico states, “a seller, lessor or landlord of real property, including a participant in an exchange of real property and any agent involved in such a transaction, shall not be liable for failure to disclose” anything including natural death, unnatural death, or any felony.

Massachusetts is particularly helpful, as it states a landlord does not have to disclose “the fact or suspicion that real property may be or is psychologically impacted shall not be deemed to be a material fact required to be disclosed in a real estate transaction” including both death, HIV status, and “that the real property has been the site of an alleged parapsychological or supernatural phenomenon.”

Massachusetts is particularly helpful, as it states a landlord does not have to disclose “the fact or suspicion that real property may be or is psychologically impacted shall not be deemed to be a material fact required to be disclosed in a real estate transaction” including both death, HIV status, and “that the real property has been the site of an alleged parapsychological or supernatural phenomenon.”

Unfortunately, what this all boils down to is that there is no yes or no answer to “Must I disclose this death?” In the end, your best bet is to ask a lawyer in your specified area about the specific type of death (such as HIV status) and location. 

How have you dealt with Let us know in the comments below!

Unfortunately, what this all boils down to is that there is no yes or no answer to “Must I disclose this death?” In the end, your best bet is to ask a lawyer in your specified area about the specific type of death (such as HIV status) and location. 

How have you dealt with Let us know in the comments below!

Spread the word. Share this post!

Nicole Seidner

Cole Seidner is a copywriter here at the CIC Blog. She holds a degree in Writing from Savannah College of Art and Design with a focus in creative nonfiction. Her free time is spent taking pictures of her dogs or reading deep dive analysis on movies that she hasn’t seen.

Comments (1)

  1. Avatar

    BILL O'BRIEN

    Reply

    It was several years ago. My wife and I had rented a beautiful executive style home to a retired city manager and his lovely wife, who was working for our local city as an analyst. Unfortunately, she, according to her and family, had a history of migraine headaches. The husband a had a very demanding, authoritarian, dominating, and perfectionistic personality. One morning, my wife and I , who at the time lived next door, saw a coroner’s van in front of the home. As a landlord I was concerned about what happened and went next door to inquire. The husband took offense that I even had the audacity to ask and basically told me it was none of my business. We never could find out what exactly happened as the tenant would not communicate with us and the coroner’s office would not release private information. We were worried that we may have had substantial damages because as an insurance agent for 41 years we had claims where someone committed suicide by gunshot and there would be property damage and blood and body tissue cleanup issues. We think that the wife hooked up her tailpipe to the passenger compartment of her vehicle and died from carbon monoxide poisoning but we could never confirm the cause of death.
    The husband gave us notice that he would be moving out and gave us permission to show the house to prospective tenants. When showing the house I accidently stepped on a small hand mirror that was in the master bedroom and when I informed him that I had accidently stepped on it-he went berzerk, calling me names, and physically shoving me out the home and down the front stairs on the porch in front of prospective tenants. Several times he came out of the home when we we weeding the flowers and working on the yard and threatened us physically and verbally. He was a very angry and hostile person and directed his emotions toward my wife and me. When it came time for a final inspection and walk through we just gave him his security deposit back as we were fearful he would physically attack us if we met with him personally.
    One of our neighbors, after tenant moved out, asked if we would like a “Cleansing”. It was funny because after she went through the home doing the cleansing as we walked out of the home a broom fell over and hit a bucket as though it was a sign that the wife’s spirit had left the home. It was a weird experience but we had no problem re-renting the home even with disclosures of what had happened.
    Four years ago, my wife and I sold the home, next door, that we personally built and had lived in for 27 years because of 1031 exchange that went bad and because we owed the government so much in taxes. We moved into the beautiful home that we rented and that took us nine years of weekends, holidays and days off to build. We love this home and it does not bother us in the least that someone died in our home and committed suicide. We just felt sorry for the husband and especially for his lovely wife.

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