Toronto Estate Law Blog
Bricks, Mortar and Murder?
A house can be a lot more than bricks and mortar. A Bowmanville couple recently came to this realization after they learned that the house they recently purchased had been the site of a gruesome double murder. An article from yesterday’s Toronto Star details the mental anguish caused to the homeowners and how it has led them to commence a lawsuit.
Upon discovering the tragic history of their new home, the purchasers immediately tried to cancel the $253,000 sale only to learn that it was too late. Unable to recoup their money, and allegedly suffering from panic attacks and overwhelming stress, the couple decided to commence a lawsuit against the real estate agency, the real estate agent and the previous homeowners for failing to disclose the house’s history.
Section 39 of the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act Code of Ethics (the “Code of Ethics”) provides that licensed real estate agents “shall not, in the course of trading in real estate, engage in any act or omission that, having regard to all of the circumstances, would reasonably be regarded as disgraceful, dishonourable, unprofessional or unbecoming…” If the agent or agency knew of the house’s sordid history and failed to disclose it to the purchasers, they are potentially in contravention of the Code of Ethics and could face sanction(s) by a discipline committee.
According to the article, the couple’s statement of claim describes the murder information as a “material defect … which stigmatized, psychologically impacted and tainted the property.” Does the withholding of this information lead to recoupable damages? Will the case add nuance to the doctrine of caveat emptor or “buyer beware”? We will have to see what the court decides.
Inherited real property is often sold following a testator's death. For Estate Trustees who are charged with executing real estate transactions, this story serves as a warning to be careful to disclose all pertinent information regarding that property.
Thanks for reading!
Toronto Office | 141 Adelaide St. West, Suite 1700, Toronto, Ontario, M5H 3L5
Phone: 416.369.1140, Fax: 416.369.1517
Oakville Office | 228 Lakeshore Rd. East, Oakville, Ontario, L6J 5A2 Phone: 905.844.2383, Fax: 905.844.3699