Duty to Disclose: Selling Dangerous Property

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Dangerous property includes an apartment or home where there has been an assault, a murder, a rape, or another violent crime.  The general rule is caveat emptor let the buyer beware.  The second general rule is that it is not illegal to fail to prevent crime. 

Therefore, the buyer is responsible to make sure that the landlord has changed the locks, and to negotiate for more lighting in the areas around the apartment.  The buyer must take reasonable steps to ascertain the safety of the area and the history of the apartment, such as visiting the local police station or asking the landlord herself. 

The seller cannot make any "misrepresentations," that is, lie.  The seller cannot say that a sexual assault had not occurred at the residence if it had.  The seller cannot say that the locks have been changed if they hadn't. 

Also, modern changes in the law and society have changed the landlord/tenant relationship.  These include the implied "warranty of habitability" and the implied "covenant of good faith and fair dealing" Nowadays, the landlord is increasingly responsible for disclosing past crimes and warning tenants where the landlord knows of criminal activity on the premises, such that future attacks on tenants are "reasonably foreseeable." 

The landlord still has no duty to warn tenants about crimes in those public areas adjacent to the apartment, or in those areas where no attempt to control had been made.  But the landlord could be responsible for disclosing dangers of private parking lots, especially when previous measures to prevent criminal attacks had been taken.  In considering her duty to warn a buyer, a seller must consider all danger factors - the nature, condition, and location of the premises. 

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Last Modified: 01-04-2011 11:14 AM PST

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