What happens if there was a murder in a home we bought? Well in Georgia, unless the buyer specifically asked the seller about this during due diligence, nothing happens. Georgia is a buyer beware state and there are no requirements for homeowners or brokers to volunteer this and other information. Violent crimes, suicides, natural deaths, drug labs....if the buyer doesn't ask, the seller isn't required to tell. And if the buyer waives the due diligence period to "win" in a multiple offer situation...sorry.

Mum’s the Word

Georgia’s “Stigmatized Property Statute” offers significant protection to both the buyer and the listing agent. They are not liable for failing to disclose violent events occurring on/in the property like murder, felonies or suicides. Agents and sellers are also not required to disclose deaths by natural causes or whether a past resident had an infectious disease. In fact, disclosing some of this information may be a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Agents may know or be told that an event occurred, but they cannot volunteer this information unless authorized by the seller. If instructed not to disclose, they cannot disclose. If they do, they may be subject to sanctions by the Georgia Real Estate Commission and/or sued by the seller. However, if specifically asked whether something like this occurred, they must answer truthfully and to the best of their ability. But…some questions about illness or disease may get into conflict with Fair Housing laws and if that happens, they may cite that conflict and decline to respond.

Sex Offenders and Drug Labs

Again, home buyers in Georgia must understand “caveat emptor”; they are expected to research whatever they consider important to them during the due diligence period. The Georgia sales contract states that it is the sole duty of the buyer to become familiar with the neighborhood; citing things like landfills, quarries, power lines, airports, cemeteries, prisons, stadiums, odor and noise concerns, crime, schools, land use, gov and transportation maps and plans, zoning and anything else they deem important.

As if that wasn’t enough, buyers are also solely responsible for researching whether a registered sex offender , drug lab or dumpsite is located in the vicinity of the home. This responsibility is clearly and boldly noted in the purchase and sale contract and the site for researching sex offenders in Georgia is provided along with a link to the DEA site to research possible drug labs or dumpsites.

The Real World

The word “stigmatized” is used for a reason. The issues mentioned above, and any number of other things that might be found, can adversely impact value and marketability. A buyer that waives due diligence, fails to understand the law and/or works with a buyer agent that doesn’t properly guide them is buying trouble. It’s not pleasant to meet the neighbors and see them walking away whispering and shaking their heads. Work with seasoned professionals that know how to look for possible issues, ask direct questions in writing, and complete the research commensurate with buying a home. Don’t be the dolt that cries after the fact, looks to assign blame and sue someone. Buying and selling real estate is serious business, treat it that way.

The Hank Miller Team puts 30+ years of full time sales & appraisal experience to work for you. Act with complete confidence & make sound, decisive real estate decisions. 678-428-8276 and info@hmtatlanta.com

No one at HMT is a lawyer, this is not and should not be construed as legal advice. Every transaction is different and the involved agents should be consulted for specific advice. If that’s not working, best to contact a lawyer. When things go wrong, they tend to be expensive,  contentious and stressful. This is business, treat it that way.
Posted by Hank Miller on


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