Real Estate Disclosure Law in Georgia
A beautiful neighborhood.
An attractive, well kept house.
And a tragic backstory.
"It was ruled as a Homicide."
"The next door neighbor actually saw the body with a bag over her head."
Gail Spencer was found dead in her home on October 6, 2012. Four people were charged with the murder including Spencer's co-worker Tracy Michelle Jones. Spencer was killed to cover-up an embezzlement scheme against the law firm where she worked.
It is tragic story.
A story most home buyers would like to know before they moved in.
But does a seller have to tell you about a home's bloody past?
For answers I spoke to Bob Lovett, an attorney for Lovett & Myers Law Firm in Macon.
"In Georgia there's never been a case decided that says that a seller, either a commercial seller or a residential seller, has a duty to disclose any prior criminal activity on the property. In Pennsylvania, there has been a specific case that was recently decided in which there was a murder/suicide on a residential property," says Bob Lovett, Lovett and Myer Law Firm.
Three weeks after moving in, Janet Milliken learned that her new home had been the site of a murder/suicide. A year and a half before Milliken purchased the property Kostantinos Koumboulis shot his wife Georgia to death before turning the gun on himself. All inside the home.
After learning about the house's tragic past Milliken sued the sellers and their RE/MAX real estate agents for fraud and negligent misrepresentation. Milliken claimed the murder/suicide reduced the value of her property by fifteen percent. A Pennsylvania court threw out the claim but upon appeal the state's Superior Court overturned that judgement saying a jury should decide whether the murder/suicide was a material defect.
"It's a matter of time before these type claims are made in Georgia," says Bob Lovett, Lovett and Myer Law Firm.
In the meantime, there are still ways to protect yourself.
"The Georgia Realtors association has a standard disclosure form that they use in real estate transactions. There's a general catch-all provision at the end of that form where you can ask questions. And if you're asked a question, has there been any criminal activity on the property? Or prior criminal activity on the property? Then a truthful answer is required," says Lovett.