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Laws do not require Realtors to disclose if a death occurred in a home

A: Members of the media and the public have asked me recently about what information Realtors must disclose about a home’s history to prospective buyers.

For example, a local television news reporter recently asked, “How can people search the history of a home?” The reporter also asked whether Nevada law requires a real estate agent to tell a prospective home buyer if a murder or other crime occurred in the home.

Such questions arise often enough that Tiffany Davis, the Nevada Association of Realtors’ legal counsel recently authored an article on this topic. You can read the full article on the association’s website at https://nvar.org/docs/default-source/legal-docs/2014octoberfaq_deathdisclosure.pdf?sfvrsn=2, but I’m reprinting some key portions below.

“I actually get this question quite often,” Davis wrote. “Usually the scenario goes something like this: The buyer, excited about their new home, is outside enjoying their garden. A neighbor walks over and strikes up a conversation, welcoming the family to the neighborhood. Within the first two minutes, the neighbor makes a comment to the new homeowner about the death in the house. It always seems the neighbor innocently thought the buyer had to already know about this.

“So the question is then, does the seller or the seller’s agent have to disclose the fact that there was a suicide or death in the home? NRS (Nevada Revised Statute) 40.770 tells us no, this fact is not material to the transaction, except for a death that results from a condition of the property.”

Davis’ article also quotes from the appropriate state law.

Disclosure laws can be complex and vary from state to state. This is another reason I always suggest working with a qualified local Realtor who is familiar with the area where you’re looking to buy a home.

As Davis said in her article, local buyers, sellers and Realtors should know that Nevada law doesn’t require real estate agents to disclose that a suicide or murder occurred in a particular property.

To help answer such questions, the state Real Estate Division has a Disclosure Guide Booklet that is required to be given to clients of local Realtors. This booklet is designed to provide consumers with general information about disclosure laws and should always be part of a disclosure conversation.

Although not a state requirement, I always encourage my sellers to give me permission to disclose because I find buyers will eventually find out, and I would rather discuss such issues during a client’s due diligence period.

It’s also important to note that local Realtors are not responsible for a seller’s failure to disclose something. After all, we can’t disclose what a seller failed to tell us about a property.

If people want to know this kind of information when home shopping, they have an increasing number of options, ranging from searching public records on their own to paying for services that have been created for such purposes.

Beyond that, and perhaps more importantly, I advise prospective homeowners to get a professional home inspection on any home they’re seriously considering.

Please keep those real estate questions coming so I can answer them in future columns, emailing them to me at ask@glvar.org.

Heidi Kasama is the 2014 president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors and has been a local Realtor for more than 11 years. GLVAR has more than 11,500 members. E-mail questions to ask@glvar.org. For more information, visit www.lasvegasrealtor.com.

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