"Stigmatized" Properties

Would you buy a "haunted" house?

Whether or not you believe in ghosts, there are many people who DO believe.

In real estate, these homes are referred to as "stigmatized" properties. Other properties that fit into this category include those where a murder, suicide, or other violent crime has taken place.

If you are in the market for a house or are thinking about buying, you may be interested to know that there is no statutory obligation in Florida for an owner or real estate agent to inform prospective buyers that the house is stigmatized. However, because of case law implications, the Daytona Beach Area Association of REALTORS® strongly advises REALTORS® to disclose if they know the property is stigmatized. This disclosure should come with the approval of the seller.

If you are selling this type of property, your REALTOR® should discuss the pros and cons of this disclosure. The advantage is that the buyer cannot come back later and sue. And even if the legal action has no merit, the hassle isn’t worth it. The disadvantage is that it may discourage a buyer who does believe in the supernatural.

Of course, ghosts and crimes are not the only elements that can stigmatize a property. Another factor of concern to potential homebuyers is disease, most notably, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS.

The presence of a previous owner with AIDS may seem like a stigmatizing factor to many; however, that is not the case. Revisions to our nation’s fair housing laws have identified the handicapped as a protected class much like ethnic status, religious beliefs or gender, and AIDS is considered a handicap. Therefore, a REALTOR® cannot disclose the fact that an AIDS patient lived there as it is considered immaterial to the transaction.

In fact, if a real estate agent is specifically asked if anyone with AIDS does or has lived in the house, they are not obliged to reply. The response is more likely to be a generic statement about protected classes identified under fair housing laws and that legally, no comment can be made. Any prospective buyer should not assume that means "yes." It means, by law, this is a discussion that cannot take place.

All members of the Daytona Beach Area Association of REALTORS® subscribe not only to state and national fair housing laws, but also to a strict Code of Ethics outlining proper behavior in dealing with both sellers and buyers.