Halloween is fast approaching and there is many a social media poster inquiring about where they might find haunted areas to visit. The possibility of a close encounter with Casper or his not so friendly counterparts may give you those hair-raising thrills you seek, but would you be interested in rooming it with your very own poltergeist? What about a banshee? Those late-night shrieks are not for those that need their beauty sleep. Believe it or not, there is an actual lawsuit out there regarding this very issue. Nerd alert, it happens to be my absolute favorite case and I encourage you to look it up. Read ahead for more information, but reader beware, this case is not for the faint of heart.
In Stambovsky v. Ackley, the buyer had been thrilled to close on what was thought to be his dream home. Stambovsky v. Ackley, 169 A.D.2d 254, 572 N.Y.S.2d 672 (App. Div. 1991). However, the purchase turned out to be more of a living nightmare. Stambovsky was unfamiliar with the house as he was moving there from out of state. Upon completion of the purchase, much to his dismay, he learned that the house was widely reputed in the community to be possessed by poltergeists. Stambovsky sought rescission of the contract, which the district court denied. Stambovsky appealed and ultimately won his case, saddling the original owner with her shade situation.
In its rationale, the appellate court found Ackley had encouraged her home’s reputation in the neighborhood and had even had stories of its hauntings posted in Reader’s Digest, yet none of these details were disclosed to the buyer, who arguably could not have realized the spectral presence in the abode with just a walk through. Cases such as this rang the death knells for the concept of caveat emptor (buyer beware), and its progenies have carved out much more buyer friendly law. These new laws compel a seller to disclose certain adverse material facts.
Montana Code Annotated 37-51-102(2)(a) defines “Adverse material facts” as fact that should be recognized by a broker or salesperson as being of enough significance as to affect a person’s decision to enter into a contract to buy or sell real property and may be a fact that:
(i) materially affects the value, affects structural integrity, or presents a documented health risk to occupants of the property; or
(ii) materially affects the buyer’s ability or intent to perform the buyer’s obligations under a proposed or existing contract.
(b) The term does not include the fact that an occupant of the property has or has had a communicable disease or that the property was the site of a suicide or felony.
Other states explicitly have laws covering these paranormal occurrences, often with carve outs for grisly murders, emotional crimes, and other emotional and psychological defects (here’s looking at you California). So, what is a ghost-phobic, revenant leery purchaser to do? Well in Montana you may just be SOL (spooked outta luck). One helpful thing might be to disclose your paralyzing fear of the paranormal and simply ask “Is this dwelling deluded with demons?” You never know, you may be saving yourself from midnight light flickering and cupboard opening.
Did you buy a haunted house? Is your roommate not getting the eviction hint despite smudging and a visit from your local exorcist? Sorry, but we won’t take your case. We would be happy to Google the Vatican’s information for you, though! For all other adverse material facts you have discovered after purchasing your home, we are here to help. Set up a consultation with one of the attorneys at Bryan, diStefano & Mattingley, PLLP today. But just remember, when it comes to suing for purchasing your haunted home, at least in this state, you most likely do not have a ghost of a chance.