Do you have to disclose if a home is haunted in Chicago?

So you believe the home you’re selling is haunted. Or maybe a death occurred on the property…do you have to disclose it in Chicago, or in Illinois for that matter? Or just as important, should you disclose?

John Wayne Gacy Home prior to demolition
courtesy of Alamy/Daily Herald/dailyherald.com & TMZ

The legal answer is quite simple: in the State of Illinois you do not need to disclose if you believe a home is haunted or if the property is stigmatized (death in the property, murder, etc.). All you need to disclose in Illinois are physical defects to the property and if the home was ever used for the manufacturing of methamphetameme (thank you Walter White!). The main reason for this is because things such as hauntings / ghosts are subjective versus a physical defect such as a leaking basement or bad electrical wiring can be seen and truly known.

In some states, ANYTHING affecting value must be disclosed. California for instance, known for their extremely tough consumer protection laws is one of those states. If a home is haunted or had a death it must be disclosed. Should Illinois have these laws? In my opinion, absolutely not. In my opinion these laws do not at all protect consumers they only protect the legal industry and increase frivolous litigation. Furthermore, if a law like this were sporadically enacted it would negatively affect homebuyers who bought under the presumption that disclosure was not needed. It would mean going forward they’d have to disclose and potentially affect their property value. The law would in essence create a value issue in a state where there really wasn’t one before. Disclosure for physical issues make sense since these issues affect the property physically and will need to be fixed. The fact that someone died in a property has no material affect on the property, only in people’s minds.

Now there are some circumstances that one could argue disclosure needs to take place. For instance the John Wayne Gacy house. Now information about this property is well known and can easily be found on google. While the acts that took place on the property don’t material change the property, the new owners may have an issue with quiet enjoyment. Imagine living there and having random people coming up to take photos of your home or selfies on your front porch. An argument could be made that disclosure in these instances are warranted because they could disturb the ownership rights of the property (quiet enjoyment). But this could easily turn into a slippery slope…would “ghosts” be the next thing to block quiet enjoyment? Then how do you prove a ghost exists? Do we call up Ed and Lorraine Warren?

Thankfully we are in a state where these disclosures do not need to take place so we don’t have to worry about it. But, if you are someone who believes in ghosts or does not want to live in a home where someone died…you better start doing some research!

Paul Blackburn is an Illinois licensed real estate broker and Realtor with @properties in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. He can be reached anytime via e-mail at Paul@PKBlackburn.com

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