I just moved into a home that is a lease/purchase. I found out the previous owner committed suicide in the home last yr, can I get my down pymt back?

Asked by Dawn468, Murfreesboro, TN Sun Nov 28, 2010

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Wendy Lucas, Agent, Aspen, CO
Fri Mar 11, 2011
In Colorado, Suicide is not a material defect. It is not a required disclosure. This is a really simple issue. Either it is a material defect or it is not. Any TN broker should know the answer to this question, if they don't they should find out!
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Scott Aberna…, , Murfreesboro, TN
Sun Nov 28, 2010
This is definately a question for your attorney (I am not one) however, to the best of my knowledge, there is no requirement in the State of Tennessee to disclose tragic events or hauntings of a property. Therefore, I don't believe you will have any legal right to your down payment/deposit back.

However, if, prior to the transaction, you had specifically asked about a death in the home and were told that there had been none, you may have a case.

Unfortunately death happens everyday, all over the place. There are very few areas in Murfreesboro, Tennessee that someone, at some time, has not died on the property (given the The Battle of Stones River was waged here). It would be difficult for a seller to disclose all deaths that happened in, on or around his home.

I hope this helps.
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Don Tepper, Agent, Burke, VA
Sun Nov 28, 2010
Some states require such disclosure. Others don't. I'm not licensed in Tennessee, so I don't know whether it's required in Tennessee. If you were represented by a Realtor in your transaction, check with that Realtor. Otherwise, check with the state Board of Realtors to find out if disclosure is required.

I'm not a lawyer, so what follows is not legal advice. For that, you need a lawyer.

If it is required, then you may have some grounds. You refer to you "down payment." If it was a lease-purchase and you did make a down payment, then it's likely you're on firmer ground than if you just did a lease-option. In a lease-purchase, there actually is a down payment. In a lease-option, there isn't. The upfront money is an option fee, not a down payment. Big difference. And with a lease-option, your option is to walk away at the conclusion of your lease. A lawyer who knows and understands lease-options and lease-purchases can explain that further.

If disclosure isn't required in Tennessee (and, once again, I'm not a lawyer so this isn't legal advice), then your position appears a lot weaker. You can argue that morally or ethically it should have been disclosed, but that's unlikely to get you very far in a legal proceeding. I DO understand where you're coming from and what your concerns are. Unfortunately, that doesn't count for much legally.

You certainly can try to negotiate something with the owner. That might be a full or partial refund of the money you put down. But if Tennessee is a non-disclosure state, then most of the power really rests with the owner. If you used a Realtor to represent you in your negotiations, you can seek the support of that Realtor. And you can always go above the Realtor to the broker.

Hope that helps.
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Dean, Other Pro, Knoxville, TN
Sun Nov 28, 2010
I dont think legally they have to disclose it (im not an attorney) but in my opnion, it should have been noted.
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Dawn468, Home Buyer, Murfreesboro, TN
Sun Nov 28, 2010
Actually, it has everything to do with me - personally and financially. My husband passed away this past July, so my sons and I moved back to Tennessee from Florida. In some states a seller must disclose if there has been a death of any "significance" in the last 3 years (i.e., suicide or murder). It may not be a legal issue in Tennessee, but personally, I should have had the option to make the decision of my children and I would live in a home where someone just killed themselves. Obviously it's not a moral or ethical issue, because he chose not to say anything. #2, financially it could be a deterrant if I needed to move anytime soon. We live on a quiet cu-de-sac in a very close community. Had I lived in the area before moving, I never would have chosen this house... mainly because I would have known what had happened. From what I now understand, this is the reason he had it up for lease/purchase instead of selling it outright. It sat on the market, priced fairly well, and only had 1 showing. Mainly because of the stigma surrounding it. Again, it may not be a legal issue, but I was hoping there may be some recourse - my children and I are extremely uncomforable - that we may have to deal with. But obviously life changes, but financially, I can't afford to take my chances.
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Anna M Brocco, Agent, Williston Park, NY
Sun Nov 28, 2010
If you would to back out of your agreement, consider consulting with an attorney who specializes in real estate, have all related documentation reviewed, and see exactly what options you may have at this point, if any--then go from there.
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Myra Gouger, Agent, Las Vegas, NV
Sun Nov 28, 2010
Probably not. What does the fact that someone committed suicide in the home have to do with you? How does it affect you? Most likely it doesn't. So my answer would be no, you cannot get your deposit back for this reason.
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