As a Matter of law, the House is Haunted

By Micheal A. Mulloy

When I was thinking of a blog post to write this week, I was taken back to my first year of law school and back to one photo-micheal-a-mulloy-attorney-at-law
of my favorite classes of that year – Real Property.  While many of my classmates were uninterested in learning about springing interests in real estate, the dreaded Rule Against Perpetuities and contingent remainder interests in real property, I always was fascinated by this area of law and knew that one day I was going to practice it.  While we read many different cases that year, the one that sticks out in my mind had to do with ghosts.  Yes, ghosts.

“Plaintiff, to his horror, discovered that the house he had recently contracted to purchase was widely reputed to be possessed by poltergeist, reportedly seen by defendant seller and members of her family on numerous occasions over the last nine years.”  These were the words that opened the case of Stambovsky v. Ackley, a case out of New York from 1991.  The Plaintiff had recently purchased a house and later found out that the former owners highly publicized the house as being a haunted one.  The homeowner requested that he should be allowed to rescind the purchase agreement because the sellers did not inform him of ghosts that were allegedly hanging around the house.  In an unusual opinion, the New York court decided that the nondisclosure of the poltergeists, which may have materially impaired the value of the home and was not a condition that would be discovered by the purchaser, warranted a rescission of the contract.

While I have not yet had any clients who discovered ghosts in their house, North Dakota law does provide that sellers of real property must make certain property disclosures to a prospective buyer.  With the recent trends in real estate sales here in Bismarck and in the surrounding areas, I have had many clients come to me seeking assistance to direct them through a real estate transaction.  While many North Dakotans have recently elected to personally sell their home without using a real estate agent or attorney, it is always wise to consult with a professional to know what rights and responsibilities you have as a seller or a buyer.  At Stebbins Mulloy, we assist clients with drafting deeds, purchase agreements, leases, contracts for deeds, and further assist in navigating clients through the somewhat difficult process of buying or selling a home.  If you have any questions regarding a real estate transaction, please do not hesitate to contact me.