Photo: The Canadian press
A home in Shaughnessy, an exclusive neighborhood in Vancouver is pictured, March, 13, 2018.
It was an "amazing" property in the heart of downtown Toronto, but for broker Caroline Baile it was a tough sell.
This is because the home had been the site of a recent murder, a dispute was fatal. Baile wanted to tell potential buyers about the tragic death that took place, but the history of the property was already known thanks to intense media coverage of the crime.
"It was challenging to sell it," she said, not wanting to go in for details to protect the client's privacy. "So we ended up leasing it to cover transportation costs."
The tenants were aware of the property's history and when the media's attention fell, the property was sold.
But for some people, knowing that a murder took place in a home is enough to get them away from a purchase – even though it is in a steep discount on a hot market.
It is for those who are aware that something has happened.
Although there are rules requiring the disclosure of issues relating to a property as defective as a hole in a roof or a mold, for non-physical problems such as violent crime, the law largely says "caveat emptor" or the buyer watches, Alan said. Silverstein, a Ontario-based property lawyer.
Quebec has a law that requires sellers to disclose when a person has died an unnatural death on their property. But in other provinces, the guidelines are blurred.
"A murder is more psychological than actually … When you get into the area of murder and suicide, natural causes, we have no clear rules," said Silverstein.
There are also different guidelines for agents or sellers, he added.
In Ontario, for example, the seller has No legal requirement to inform a stigma like murder and onus is on the buyer and their real estate agent to find out.
However, real estate agents in the province have an ethical obligation to reveal the existence of stigmas, according to the Ontario Real Estate Association.
Agents are also required to tell potential buyers about these issues as soon as possible, says Barry Lebow, a real estate agent in Toronto and expert on stigmatized features.
"You can't reveal it at the table when there are offers. You don't wait until the last minute, but it happens," he said.
If the agent or seller is asked a question, they cannot give a false answer, said Silverstein.
The former owner of a Vancouver mansion learned this lesson by B.C. The Supreme Court ordered her to return a $ 300,000 deposit after a sale fell because she did not tell the buyer about a suspected gang-related murder of her son-in-law at the 2007 front gate.
Feng Yun Shao recalled his $ 6.1 million offer on 9,000 square feet of mansion in 2009 just days after sending the deposit. The wild buyer asked why they were selling and was told that the owner had moved back to China and her daughter had moved to a place closer to her children's school according to legal documents.
Neither the owner, her daughter nor the real estate agent told Shao about the unresolved slaying, and the judge said she was the victim of a "fraudulent misleading".
Yet, as homes change hands over the years, the dark secrets of a property are not always passed on.
"If the seller doesn't know anything about it, it's hard to hold them accountable," Silverstein said.
It is also unclear how far back in a property's history should be published. Some jurisdictions, such as California states that the seller is obliged to declare a death on a property if it occurred within the three years prior to the sale.
"We need some quick and fast rules," said Silverstein.
Buyers who are uncomfortable living in a home where a violent crime took place should do extensive research on any property that catches their eye. In addition to the obvious online address searches, potential buyers should also ask their wild neighbors for home information, Silverstein said.