|February 3, 2014|
Previously published on January 29, 2014
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently granted the petition for allowance of appeal of a December 26, 2012, Superior Court ruling that psychological damage to real property is not considered a material defect in the property which must be revealed by the seller to the buyer.
The case involved a murder in a property that was not disclosed to the buyer. “The fact that a murder once occurred in a house falls into the category of home-buyer concerns best left to caveat emptor - let the buyer beware,” the Superior Court wrote in 2012. In Janet S. Milliken v. Kathleen Jacono and Joseph Jacono and Cascia Corporation, trading as Re/Max Town & Country and Fran Day and Thomas O’Neill and John Restrepo and Fox & Roach LP, 2012 Pa. Super. LEXIS 4105 (December 26, 2012), Ms. Milliken sought review of the grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant, home sellers and their agents by the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County.
In affirming the summary judgment order granted to the seller, the Superior Court found that sellers should only be required to reveal material defects to: the actual physical structure of the house, with legal impairments on the property and with hazardous materials located at the property. The court was concerned with opening the flood gates, finding that if psychological defects must be disclosed, then we are not far from requiring sellers to reveal that a next door neighbor is loud and obnoxious, or on some days you can smell a nearby sewage plant, or that the house was built on an old Indian burial ground.
As stated by the Superior Court in affirming the lower court’s granting of summary judgment: “To allow consideration of possible psychological defects opens a myriad of disclosures that sellers will need to reveal, and starts a descent down a very slippery slope.” The Supreme Court’s decision to grant the petition for allowance of appeal in this case may indicate that Pennsylvania is beginning to descend down this “slippery slope.”