The Watcher – A Reminder that Disclosure Duties Go Beyond Physical Defects

Disclosure by Simon Offord, Esq.

We have written several articles about a seller’s duty to disclose, including articles about the consequences of failure to disclose material facts. Most of these articles discuss physical defects, as these are the issues that most often result in lawsuits. However, a seller’s duty does not end there. ANY fact materially impacting the value of property must be disclosed.

A recent sale in New Jersey has been all over the news, with the buyers suggesting they will sue the sellers for failure to disclose. Many of you may have heard about it, as it is a creepy yet fascinating story.

Shortly after moving into their new home, a New Jersey family began receiving terrifying threats from someone identifying themselves as “The Watcher.” Specifics on the threats can be found here.

The threats were so bad that the buyers moved out. Understandable, as I would not want anything to do with these threats. The buyers now want to sue the sellers, claiming the sellers knew about the threats.

This would certainly be actionable in California. If the buyers could prove the sellers received similar letters or generally knew about this individual, this fact should have been disclosed. Disclosure duties are not limited to physical defects. Issues such as noisy neighbors, traffic, deaths at the property, and “The Watcher” do need to be disclosed. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes, would those issues impact the value of the property to you?

If you are selling property and wonder if you should be disclosing something, the fact that you are wondering about it suggests it is significant to you, and thus should be disclosed.

If you have questions about disclosure duties, or real estate law in general, do not hesitate to contact us.

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