Disclosure of sensitive issues
One of the most difficult decisions a licensee can face is whether or not to disclose a sensitive issue that doesn’t relate to the physical state of the property.
What you need to consider
Disclosure of a sensitive issue depends on the facts of the case. An appeal decision made by the High Court in 2015 provides some guidance.
- If you are faced with a sensitive issue you need to consider whether or not it is something you need to disclose
- It is not just unnatural deaths that you need to consider disclosing but also other matters such as particularly vicious crimes
- A cautious approach is a good rule of thumb to follow
- Make sure you discuss disclosure with your vendor client and take their views into account when making your decision. You cannot make disclosure without the consent of your vendor. If you are of the view that disclosure should be made, but your vendor will not agree, then the only appropriate action for you to take, is to cease to act for the vendor and not disclose the information.
You must consider each situation based on its facts but the types of considerations that might be relevant include:
- The fact that a murder, manslaughter or suicide has occurred in the property
- The location of the event. Sometimes it will be reasonable to view a tragedy in the grounds of a property differently from one in a living area of a house
- How long ago the event happened
- The circumstances following the tragedy. For example, whether the house has been lived in and, if so, for how long
- The circumstances of the tragedy and whether the tragedy has a degree of notoriety (even if just in the local neighbourhood)
- The likely reaction of potential purchasers and the possible impact on the price.
If you disclose
If you decide disclosure must be made and the vendor agrees then you should handle the disclosure sensitively.
There is no need to advertise the information or tell everyone who views the property. Your obligation is to tell purchasers who have indicated an interest in submitting an offer on the property.