Question: Recently, we have been hearing some rumors that there was a shooting in our Phoenix home several years ago. Although I am not concerned, my wife is concerned and wants me to contact the seller to get more information. I do not know if a shooting is similar to termite damage or a leaky roof that needs to be disclosed by the seller, but I have to believe that something like the Nicole Simpson/Ron Goldman murders sixteen years ago would still have to be disclosed to any buyer of that Brentwood, California home. Am I right? Is Arizona real estate law the same as California?
Answer: The psychological stigma of a murder or other violent crime occurring at a home is generally a material, adverse fact that would need to be disclosed by the seller and the real estate agents to the buyer. The landmark ruling is a 1983 California appeals court decision permitting rescission of the purchase transaction by an elderly lady who had bought a home in which a mother and three children had been murdered ten years earlier. In response to that California decision, however, California passed a statute limiting to three years the requirement of disclosure of a murder or other violent crime occurring in the home. Therefore, in California the seller of the home where the Nicole Simpson/Ron Goldman murders occurred would only have been required to disclose those murders to any buyer in the three years following the murders.
In 1995 Arizona adopted a similar statute (A.R.S. §32-2156) that does not require the seller to disclose to a buyer a murder occurring in the home. This Arizona statute also protects the real estate agents in the transaction. Unlike California, however, there is no time period in the Arizona statute. In other words, even if the seller and the real estate agents in the transaction learn of a murder in the home the day before closing, under this Arizona statute they have no liability for failing to disclose this murder to the buyer of the home. This Arizona statute has been amended several times since 1995 to not require disclosure by sellers and real estate agents of numerous other material, adverse facts that under common law would generally need to be disclosed to the buyer. These amendments include no requirement to disclose to the buyer a natural death or suicide in the home, any felony that occurred in the home, HIV/AIDS of the seller or any occupant of the home, and, most recently, any sex offender in the neighborhood.