You begin to get settled into your new home. Everything seems quiet…at first. It starts fairly small, with items being left on one side of the table being found on the other. But when you come home and find your belongings stacked neatly in one corner of the room like a giant game of Jenga, you decide that it’s time to take action.
After doing some digging you find information that suggests that the house has a known haunted history with documented reports stretching back at least 159 years. There is no way that your realtor could not have known about this; the most recent report on file was when the last tenant was living on site.
If your realtor did in fact know about the haunting, does it violate the New York Supreme Court’s ruling in Stambovsky v. Ackley?
There are several states where it is necessary to disclose whether or not there is a belief that a property is haunted. The level to which the property ‘needs’ to be haunted is dependent on the level of haunting; in Virginia the haunting must somehow affect the actual property (no, I’m not sure what that would entail either). Some states have decided that you don’t have to disclose if the property is believed to be able to cause some level of psychological harm. In California if a death has occurred on premises within a certain length of time it has to be disclosed during sale, but a haunting need only be disclosed if the realtor is asked directly about it.
The official stance of the state of New York, as expressed in Stambovsky v. Ackley is that a known haunting can affect a house’s value, thereby potentially influencing the outcome of a sale. It’s not whether or not the house is actually haunted that is in dispute, just how much damage a suspected haunting may have on property values (though I suppose that a haunting can actually increase a value in some cases). In the case of Stambovsky v. Ackley, a house was sold with a haunted history so visiable that the house was included on ghost tours, but the new owner didn’t know about it-and would not have purchased the house had he known.
The State ended up ruling in the buyer’s favor, citing that the emotional defects should have been disclosed at the time the contract was being drawn up. Again, the State was not ruling on whether or not the house was actually haunted, or whether or not that haunting was affecting the property, just that the rumors that it was had an influence on value that should have been disclosed (however, this was only found in an appelliate ruling-the initial ruling was that the buyers should have done more to uncover the house’s history prior to the sale).
Other Entries in the “Your First (Haunted) House Series)