Rules on haunted properties vary

TEXAS: The Haunted Hill House in Mineral Wells, Texas, shown in 2017. Haunted Hill House is more than 100 years old and is believed to be haunted. The owner bought it not knowing about the ghost stories associated with it. Rose Baca/The Dallas Morning News/Tribune News Service

DENTON, Texas — Elvira Perry said she’s been witness to odd noises and strange sights inside her Denton home that can be attributed only to the paranormal.

Perry and her husband moved into their home three years ago, and she said they were not told prior to buying the house that it could possibly be haunted. But now, she said, the family doesn’t know what to do with the constant disturbances.

“We hear a bunch of moving of heavy boxes on the ceiling, or knocking like someone is trying to get your attention,” she said. “We lose a lot of things. We hear voices — women’s voices.

“Everything that you can think of at a haunted location, we have.”

Perry said her family didn’t believe that the hauntings were real until one of her great-grandsons saw an unknown man in the home. Her family has refused to stay the night at the house ever since, she said.

“I’ve had people come in and say, ‘Oh, you’re crazy,” she said. “But they will come in and hear the knocking and banging. It’s disrupting our lives.”

She has wondered if Texans are protected against purchasing possible haunted homes, so that’s why she asked Curious Texas: What laws protect home buyers in Texas who think their new home is haunted?

“If it was just me hearing this stuff, I would say that maybe I’m going nuts. But my husband hears it all, too,” Perry said. “My family, my sisters and brothers, will not stay over. They just come to visit me and leave. They’ve heard and seen things, and it scares them.”

Jane Dollinger, the media representative for the National Association of Realtors, said rules on haunted properties, also known as “stigmatized properties,” depend on location.

“The specific rules regarding that vary from state to state,” she said. “If you’re working with a stigmatized property, you just have to be aware of the specific rules in that region, since there are no overarching national rules.”

In New York, for instance, a seller must disclose if a home has a reputation for being haunted — ever since a 1991 decision by the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division on Stambovsky vs. Ackley.

The case came about after a couple sold their home without disclosing the property’s reputation for hauntings. The owners had reported some ghost sightings and other paranormal experiences but neglected to mention these to the home’s buyer.

So when the buyer discovered the home’s odd past, he sued.

Unlike New York, however, Texas does not require such disclosures. According to the Texas Property Code, sellers and their agents are not required to divulge deaths on properties that resulted from natural causes, suicide or an accident unrelated to the property’s condition.

This does not include murders; those are required to be disclosed in Texas.

Lori Levy, vice president for legal affairs at Texas Realtors, said Texas law requires sellers to disclose known material defects related to the condition of a property, but that doesn’t mean sellers should avoid disclosing any other information about a property.

Sellers also must present true photos that do not misrepresent the property when advertising it, she said.

“While a seller’s belief that a home is haunted may not be considered a material defect, it’s good customer service for a seller to disclose what he or she knows about the property,” she said via email.

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