Property data under review by legislature Should 'scary' news be told to homebuyer?

January 20, 1991|By Timothy J. Mullaney

Can houses be haunted? Can you catch AIDS from a toilet seat?

Of course not. But whether you should be told when you're buying a house that the previous owner had AIDS, or whether a previous owner was killed in the house, is another issue for some people. And it's an issue that the General Assembly is expected to take up this session.

Real estate lobbyists are planning to push for a law that would specifically say that home sellers and brokers don't have to disclose such facts as whether a home's previous owner had AIDS, whether an unnatural death occurred on the premises, or even whether the house is said to be haunted.

The bill is headed for its second attempt to pass the legislature, said Edgar C. Hilley, executive vice president of the Maryland Association of Realtors.

Last year it passed the Senate but died in the House of Delegates.

Brokers and sellers are required to disclose all material facts about a property to prospective buyers. What this bill is intended to do is clarify what's a material fact and what isn't.

"It makes it easier for us for the General Assembly to tell the courts that this is not a material fact," said Joseph McGraw, a lobbyist for the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

Mr. Hilley said the proposal was inspired by a lawsuit in California, in which a buyer of a home in which a murder had occurred had won a judgment against the seller and the broker involved.

Another proposal realtors' groups are supporting would require real estate brokers to carry errors and omissions insurance, a form of insurance Mr. Hilley said would be similar to the malpractice coverage that doctors and other professionals often carry.

He said that a survey of the association's members showed that only about 62 percent carry the insurance currently. "The others are not protecting anyone -- or themselves," he said.

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