Home sellers would be required to alert potential buyers if somebody had been murdered or committed suicide in a house that's for sale in Maryland, under a bill being considered by the General Assembly.
The measure would require a real estate agent, owner or home seller to disclose whether anybody had died of homicide, suicide or accidental death and whether any felonies had occurred on the property.
The bill would apply only to single-family homes and would not affect any sales that happen before Oct. 1 of this year.
Under current law, home sellers are required to disclose any "latent defects," such as cracks in the foundation, leaky pipes or bad plumbing, that wouldn't necessarily be discovered by a careful visual inspection. If the seller doesn't let a buyer know whether somebody was killed or killed themselves in a home, they're immune from being sued by the buyer.
The Maryland Association of Realtors opposes the measure, saying it would require sellers to undermine their own interests when showing a property.
"Such a disclosure by a seller agent would undermine the seller's position in direct conflict with the ... duty to promote and protect the seller's interest," Bill Castelli, the association's vice president of governmental affairs, wrote in testimony before the House Environmental Matters Committee.
Castelli argued that it is important to disclose material defects in houses because buyers and sellers have some degree of control over them. A price tag can be assigned to a leaky basement and can be subtracted from the cost of a house.
"On the other hand, deaths and felonies are outside the control of a seller to prevent or correct, and cannot be objectively valued for a buyer," he wrote.
Bill sponsor Del. Frank Conaway Jr., a Baltimore Democrat, did not respond to calls for comment.
Most states don't require sellers to disclose whether a death occurred on the property. However, California requires sellers to disclose any deaths that occurred in the past three years.