When to disclose that body buried in the backyard

Properties that have been the site of a grow-ops or homicides or have had structural damage caused by a natural disaster are all red flags to potential buyers – if you tell them about it. But do you have to? Well, CREW has put together a list of instances where indeed you do.

•    Murder. Eric and Sade-Lea Tekoniemi claimed the revelation of that double-murder was a “material defect . . . which stigmatized, psychologically impacted and tainted the property.” Although the Realtor who sold the house is on the receiving end of a law suit, lawyers describe the failure to disclose the murder as a “grey area.”

Legally, there is nothing specific stating that sellers have to come clean about any homicides on the property or land, but the Tekoniemis argue that the neglect to do so falls under the “duty to disclose” common law. The case is still ongoing.

•    Bodies. The recent exhumation of Richard III under a parking lot in the UK has made headlines all over the world, but finding a body buried on your own plot may not be as much cause for celebration. According to the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services, it is up to the homeowner to deal with any bodies remaining on the plot.

“The costs include an archaeological assessment to determine how many bodies might still be buried and moving the bones elsewhere for between $500 and $1,000 each,” says lawyer Mark Weisleder .

•    Grow-ops. The Toronto police keep a list of properties that have been used to grow marijuana, and the Ontario Real Estate Association advises buyers to do their homework on properties that may have been used to grow or traffic illegal narcotics. While a Seller Property Information Statement (SPIS) isn’t currently mandatory by law for a seller, OREA advises potential buyers to ask for one as best practice to see if there are any marks against the property.

•    Oil storage tanks. Underground, hidden oil storage tanks are a breeding ground for surface and water pollution, and may even contain traces of carcinogens. According to provincial law, the current owner or operator of the site is responsible for removing hidden tanks once they’ve been uncovered.

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