The Minnesota Association of REALTORS® has an "approved" Seller's Property Disclosure Statement" which we use for our St. Paul listings. I had somewhere figured that the form is required by Minnesota statute when what is really required is disclosure. There's even a little clause under the MAR dislosure form title which "disclaims any liability arising out of use or misuse of this form."
Without the form, however, how would the seller know what to disclose and what not to disclose? For instance, it is not required for the seller to disclose if a predatory offender lives nearby, but it is required to give the information to the buyers which allows them to research the presence of predatory offenders. As a result the MAR form has a paragraph with the Minnesota Department of Corrections website and phone number. How would an unrepresented seller (one not using a real estate agent) know they were required by law to give that information?
The list of things the seller does NOT have to disclose includes:
- occupancy of the property by anyone with AIDS or HIV
- suicide, accidental death, or natural death in the home
- "perceived paranormal activity" which means ghosts or other presences
- the presence in the neighborhood of an adult family home, community based residential facility or nursing home
- the presence of a predatory offender in the neighborhood
Since this list is specifically addressed by the Minnesota legislature, it's clear there is no duty to disclose. However, the statute says that sellers "are obligated to disclose all material facts of which the seller is aware that could adversely and significantly affect an ordinary Buyer's use or enjoyment of the property". The list of things above is specifically excluded. However, there are many buyers that do not want to buy a house where someone died an unnatural death. Even though there is no DUTY to disclose, be assured your neighbors will inform the new owners of all the gory details. Whether the courts would support withholding of such information is still to be determined.
In the meantime, my motto is the more you disclose, the better. If someone met an untimely death, the disclosure could be as simple as this: "A personal tragedy occurred in this home. Serious buyers should have their agent inquire about the details." With a statement like that, privacy can be maintained without failing to alert the buyers to the gorilla in the room!