Do you have to be told if a home was once a crime scene?

On Behalf of | Sep 30, 2022 | Real estate transactions

If you’re moving to Arizona from another state and buying a home, you may be surprised to learn that sellers aren’t required to disclose as much information about the history of a property as they are in most other places. The same is true for those who lease or rent out a property.

Among the things property owners don’t have to disclose are the following:

  • If a death (whether natural or by suicide or homicide) occurred on the property
  • If any felony occurred there
  • If there are any convicted sex offenders in the area

Some buyers will steer clear of a home where someone has been killed. They often assume a seller or their real estate agent is required to disclose that information – particularly if it happened recently. However, Arizona is one of just a few states where there is no such requirement.

Certainly, homes as well as commercial properties that have been the site of high-profile or particularly horrible crimes can become “stigmatized” and virtually impossible to sell.

The law doesn’t prevent a seller or their agent from disclosing any of this information. They just can’t face criminal or civil legal action if they don’t. That puts more of a responsibility on prospective buyers and their agents to do some Googling and other due diligence.

What if you ask?

What if you learn some troubling information on your own and ask the seller’s agent about it? They have two choices: They can answer truthfully or decline to answer. They can’t lie (at least without potential ramifications). An appeals court has also ruled that they can’t lie about the seller’s reason for leaving if the real reason involves something like a sex offender moving in next door or the fact that someone broke in and attacked or killed a resident.

Most of us have no idea what happened in our property in the years it was inhabited by previous owners – nor do we care. Many people don’t even care who their neighbors are or what they may have done in the past – as long as they don’t play their music too loud. 

However, it’s important to know what your rights are as you purchase a home. That’s just one reason why it’s always helpful to have legal guidance throughout your transaction.