Tenants have sued their landlords over a number of things such as leaky pipes, mice or other infestations or even a noisy neighbor. Recently, a couple filed a lawsuit against their landlord because the home they rented is haunted.
On March 1, 2012, Jose Chinchilla 37, his fiancée Michele Callan 36, and her two children moved into the three-bedroom house located in Toms River, N.J. They said odd things began happening shortly thereafter. They would come home and find their clothes and towels ejected from the closets and thrown all over the floors. The doors would creak open and then slam shut without anyone around. The lights would switch on and at night they heard footsteps coming from the kitchen.
On March 10th, they fled the house. Earlier, they had come home and settled into bed to watch television. A tapping noise against the television started. Later, Jose felt a tug on the sheets and his bedclothes began to slide off him. Then he felt a hand on his arm. Michele said she saw a shapeless dark ghost-figure in the bedroom.
Frightened – they quickly left and checked into a motel. They asked for their $2,250. security deposit back.
The landlord filed his own lawsuit claiming the tenants broke their lease because they realized they couldn’t afford the monthly rent. Further, he’s owned the house since 1995 and has never had a complaint of ghosts, ghouls or spirits. Perhaps the couple brought the ghosts with them or awoke them?
The tenants said they would never have spent the amount of money they did to move in, if they were only going to stay a little over a week.
Meanwhile, paranormal investigators are trying to find evidence of a haunting and polls state some 37% of Americans believe in haunted houses.
Most states in the U.S. have formal renter/seller disclosure laws regarding a home’s material facts such as outside structural concerns, leaks in the foundation or walls. Material facts can also include other items that affect the house’s value such as the amount of property taxes, details about individuals who claim to have an interest in the house, or overlaps on adjacent properties.
Non- material facts include pending foreclosure, illness, divorce or personal information about the seller.
Hauntings and grisly facts such as suicides in the home can be considered material or non-material, depending on the state. Most states have laws requiring disclosure of these facts only if the buyer asks about them.
In one of the most famous hauntings, The Amityville Horror house in New York, the Lutz family, did have full disclosure of the “haunting” before they moved in even though the law didn’t require their being told. Oddly, the movie The Amityville Horror was filmed in Toms River, N.J.
The Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division ruled in 1991 that a seller must disclose that a house has a reputation for being haunted when there is a fiduciary relationship, or in cases of fraud or misrepresentation, because such a reputation impairs the value of the house. Along with New York, California has the most demanding disclosure laws including whether you have obnoxious neighbors.
In Colorado, a broker or seller is not required to disclose psychological stigmas. But many homes in Colorado are well-known throughout the state as being haunted, such as the Briarhurst Manor in Manitou Springs. However, a good rule of thumb is to always disclose haunted pasts of a home- that way, seller is protected and buyer is informed.
A hearing in the Toms River home is expected the end of April. A judge will have the final say whether they can escape their alleged nightmare.
Keith A. Gantenbein, Jr. is a Colorado foreclosure defense attorney located in Denver and servicing all of Colorado. He also handles bankruptcies, mortgage negotiations, lender liability, real estate, civil litigation, contracts and landlord/tenant. If you think you will be facing foreclosure, or are in the foreclosure process, or have had a wrongful foreclosure, contact Keith Gantenbein at (303) 618-2122 for a one-hour consultation where he will discuss your situation and go over all your options with you.
This article is not intended as legal advice. The opinions of this article are solely the opinion of the author.