While there are many disclosures that the seller of a home or a potential landlord must make, the disclose of death in a home is not something which is federally regulated. Instead, the question – Does My Landlord Have To Disclose A Death In My Home? Demands rather more than a straightforward yes or no.
Does A Landlord Have To Disclose A Death In My Home? Whether or not a landlord has to disclose a death in your home depends upon which state the home is in. Some states have no legislation covering this issue; some have laws which explicitly say “No, a landlord does not have to disclose a death in a home” while yet others have laws that say “Yes, but…”
If you could not bear to live in a home in which someone had died then, unless the home is in one of the few states which require disclosure, your best bet is to do your own research.
In the meantime, here’s some further information about death and disclosures, some details about which states have laws or regulations in place, and what they require from a landlord and a couple of tips to help you discover what you can about a properties history.
Landlords May Have To Disclose Any “Material Defect”
Where legislation or judicial decisions around landlord disclosures exist, much of it revolves around something known as “material defects.”
When you are selling or renting out a home, there are certain things about the property and its history which you have to disclose. Some of these regulations are federal, such as the existence of lead paint, but the majority are at a state or local level.
These issues which must be disclosed are termed “material defects.” However, to make things even more complicated, it varies from state to state whether or not a tenant is entitled to the same material defects disclosures as a potential buyer. For this reason, you cannot rely on the assumption that what a seller must share with a homebuyer are the same details as a landlord must share with a tenant.
Not only that.
The concept of a death in a property being a “material defect” has been challenged in some states, through the courts. When this has occurred the judicial system has declared that a death is not a material defect and as such does not have to be declared under those regulations.
Even if a material defect has been caused in the commission of a violent crime or a violent death, the defect itself must be declared, but not the cause.
How About “Psychologically Impacted Property”?
In some states, a home where a violent, unexpected or premature death has occurred is said to be a “psychologically impacted property.” This terminology is used in those places which recognize that although there may be an absence of “material defects” in a home where such a death has occurred, some people might feel an emotional or psychological impact.
The “psychologically impacted property” label has not been tested successfully by a tenant against a landlord in a court of law. This is mainly because a tenant would have to provide evidence that they have suffered emotional or psychological trauma by living in such a home. Such an impact would be tough to prove.
Your State By State Guide To Death Disclosures
Before we leap into the state by state details, you should be aware that laws change. So, while this information is correct at the time of publication, I cannot guarantee its future accuracy. There are also one or two cities looking at their own disclosure legislation. For these reasons, it is always worth having a quick search to ensure you have the most up to date information.
Now, without further ado, let’s take that cross country trip of death disclosure regulations beginning with the states where landlords are required to disclose a death to a tenant.
California – Yes
The Golden State requires landlords to volunteer the information if a death has occurred inside the rental during the last three years. They are not obliged to provide any details above and beyond the basic “someone died.”
Also, if a prospective tenant asks about any deaths before the three-year limit, the landlord must answer truthfully and tell them about any deaths, but they do not have to volunteer this info.
Details can be found in (Cal. Civ. Code § 1710.2.)
Georgia – Yes – Sort Of
Georgia state law says that a landlord must disclose if a death has occurred in the home, but only if you ask them directly. The landlord must then tell you where in the property the deceased was found, and whether it was a death by natural causes, an accidental death, a suicide or a homicide.
The law is also very clear on the fact that they only have to answer to the best of their knowledge. Also, you have to ask a very specific “Has anyone died in here?” question. There is no requirement for voluntary disclosure nor do they have to tell you if your question is vague such as “Is there anything else I should know?” or “What can you tell me about the apartment?”
Details can be found in : (O.C.G.A.§ 44-1-16)
South Carolina – Yes – Sort Of
While South Carolina does not require a landlord to tell you about any deaths in the property or any sex offenders living nearby, it does say that landlords cannot lie about these incidents. So if you were to specifically ask, “Did somebody die in this apartment?” If they had, the landlord would have to say yes.
Connecticut – Yes And No
In Connecticut, a landlord does not have to disclose any death in the home voluntarily.
You do have the right to require that information be disclosed before renting. This makes the entire situation a little foggy.
The landlord doesn’t have to tell prospective renters as a whole anything. A potential renter can ask about deaths before renting but, and here’s where it gets foggy; you are only entitled to the knowledge before signing the lease. Therefore, you could be offered the unit and then ask for disclosure before you move forward. The landlord could choose to withdraw the offer of a lease rather than tell you about the death. Alternatively, you may have to make a last-minute decision about going ahead or not with the rental.
Then we have the states where not only are there no requirements to disclose a death but there are laws which expressly absolve the landlord of any disclosure requirements and protect them in the case where the information about a death was not shared.
Colorado – No, Oh Unless…
In Colorado, a landlord does not have to tell you if someone has died in the property. An exception is if an issue with the rental and could still pose a danger to you.
Arizona – No
The lawmakers in Arizona have gone out of their way to protect landlords. You may not take any legal action if your landlord does not tell you about a death or any other felony in your home. Also, the law says you cannot take action if your landlord doesn’t mention that there is a sex offender next door.
Arkansas – No
Arkansas law specifies that a property which is suspected of being the site of a homicide or suicide or other felony is psychologically impacted. The law allows says that this is distinctly different to a property which has a “material defect.” Landlords in Arkansas are only required by law to disclose material defects and not the fact that a property is “psychologically impacted.”
Florida – No
In Florida, the state law clearly lays out that:
“Landlords only have to disclose material defects.”
and to make it crystal clear the law states that a death does not count as a material defect.
Indiana – No
Indiana has state laws which say that a landlord is never required to tell you, under any circumstances whether a death has occurred in the property. Also, they do not have to tell you if the home;
- Has been the site of a drug lab.
- Whether any gang activity took place in the unit.
- If there has been any “discharging of a firearm involving a law enforcement officer.”
- or if any other type of felony took place.
Maryland – No
The law covering landlords and renters in Maryland states explicitly that:
“a landlord never has to disclose any death which has occurred in the property.”
Massachusetts – No
Landlords in Massachusetts are legally excused from telling you is anyone has died in your home. Also, they are explicitly protected from the obligation to tell you “if the property has been the site of any parapsychological or supernatural phenomenon.”
Minnesota – No
Minnesota may be top of the charts when it comes to slightly odd-ball regulations about landlord disclosures.
State laws say that a landlord doesn’t have to tell you if;
- Anyone has died in the property.
- If a sex offender has lived there or currently lives nearby.
- If the home is the site of any haunting activities.
- Or if there are any retirement homes nearby.
New Mexico – No
New Mexico protects the rights of the landlord to keep to themselves the facts about any death or felonies, which may have occurred in their property.
Texas – No
State law in Texas says that unless a death occurred as a result of a defect which could put the new tenant at risk, the landlord doesn’t have to tell you about it.
Utah – No
Utah is unique in that it classifies real estate, which has been the location of a death or a felony “Stigmatized Properties.” The law goes on to state that a landlord is never required to tell you that your home, or potential home, is a stigmatized property.
Wisconsin – No
In a law similar to some other states, Wisconsin protects landlords from the obligation to tell you about a death, unless it had a material effect.
Any state not specifically mentioned here has no laws or regulations either requiring landlords to disclose a death or protecting them from any such requirement.
Tips For Carrying Out Your Own Research
In some states, there might not be a legal requirement for a landlord to volunteer the information, but a landlord may be required to answer truthfully any questions you ask about the property. This includes “Has anyone died in the home?” or any other question linked to a murder, death or suicide on the premises.
The only caveat to this is that landlords are not obligated to tell you if someone who previously lived there was HIV positive or had AIDs, nor do they have to provide any details which may identify the person who died in the property. So the answer may be “Yes a death has occurred in this home,” but you would not be entitled to know specifically who it was that died, how the death occurred, when the death happened, etc.
You can also carry out internet research using the address, checking ownership records, reviewing death notices and local news reports, etc. There is even an internet site called Died In House, which will provide you with a report detailing anything they know about the home as it pertains to death.
There are very few states where a landlord is obliged to disclose a death in a rental property. Even in those places where they are obliged the information they are required to give you is minimal. If the occurrence of a death is a deal-breaker for you, your best bet is to carry out your own research.
About The Author
Geoff Southworth is the creator of RealEstateInfoGuide.com, the site that helps new homeowners, investors, and homeowners-to-be successfully navigate the complex world of property ownership. Geoff is a real estate investor of 8 years has had experience as a manager of a debt-free, private real estate equity fund, as well as a Registered Nurse in Emergency Trauma and Cardiac Cath Lab Care. As a result, he has developed a unique “people first, business second” approach to real estate.
Check out the Full Author Biography here.