Disclosing murders as material facts in property sales and leasing




Current events have led to questions about disclosing material facts


Disclosing murders as material facts in property sales and leasing seem to be a topic of discussion with the recent tragic events in Sydney. The murders of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies in a Paddington terrace property in Sydney have had people discussing whether they would live where a violent act occurred.


For the vendors and agents that may be involved in this property’s future transactions, this material fact will need to be disclosed to purchasers for the foreseeable future. As the property was leased at the time, disclosure of the material facts will extend to future tenants as well.


Crimes are thankfully rare and potential buyers and tenants don’t usually think about whether a crime had taken place in a property. That is why these events must be disclosed – because people do not think to ask this. Generally, people ask about structural issues and pests but flooding, fires, asbestos, or homes built around contaminated sites are less obvious and therefore need to be disclosed.


Victoria has the most robust laws and the state has made it an offence not to tell. Victoria Material facts include whether a murder had occurred on the property, if the property had been used as a meth lab, or the existence of flammable cladding or asbestos. Material facts are not the same in all states and there are time limits on certain facts.


A reasonable rule of thumb that agents and vendors can apply is if an issue with the property would cause a purchaser to not purchase, that is a red flag. People care about different things and if a buyer has a particular issue that is not a common concern, the purchaser would need to disclose that. Caveat emptor – let the buyer beware – still applies in that the buyer’s due diligence is required when purchasing a property.



A person’s right to know


Arguably, the most compelling reason to disclose murders during property sales is the person’s right to know. Purchasing or renting a home is a significant investment, both emotionally and financially. Prospective occupants have the right to make informed decisions about the properties they will be living in. Failing to disclose a murder on the premises can lead to severe consequences for both the occupants and the owner. However, not all people view an event the same way. Some people shudder at the thought of living in a property that had criminal activity whilst others view it as history. Time also has a strange impact – it often appears that a recent crime is more concerning than events that occurred in the past. This is strange as it is often the same caliber of crime and the new occupant would not have known any of the victims, current or past.


Living in a house with a history of violence can have a profound psychological impact on its occupants. Failing to disclose such information in a sale denies buyers the opportunity to assess whether they are comfortable with the property’s history. The emotional toll of discovering a property’s dark past after moving in can lead to buyer’s remorse, stress, and even legal action against the seller.


Always better to be upfront


In the realm of property sales, honesty is not only the best policy it is also the ethical imperative. Disclosing murders and other potentially dangerous material facts ensures that buyers and renters can make informed decisions about their prospective homes. Real estate professionals must recognise the long-term impact of non-disclosure on both occupants and the industry’s integrity. Prioritizing transparency and acknowledging the emotional and psychological aspects of a property’s history ensures trust and high ethical standards are the norm.