Tainted property

February 27, 2012 | By | 6 Replies More

If you buy a house, you have a right to know whether that house was the site of a homicide, a suicide or some other felony, right? Not in Missouri. Section 442.600 RSMo provides that sellers of such “psychologically impacted real property” need not disclose these things to new buyers. Therefore, you don’t have a right to know if the husband of the woman selling you the house hanged himself in the room you are about to call your new bedroom. This same statute provides that sellers have no duty to disclose to you that someone with HIV occupied the house.

It’s a different story if the house was used as a meth lab (BTW, in 2011, Missouri led the nation in the number of meth labs seized). If the seller knows that his or her house was once used as a meth lab, this must be disclosed, regardless of whether those operating the meth lab were convicted of any crime. Section 442.606 RSMo.

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Category: Communication, Law, Whimsy

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (6)

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  1. Tony says:

    I once moved to a little town called Hamburg, in Germany. My first workday at my new employer was September 10th 2001 and I came to town with the night train. My employer had provided me with a little temporary flat for time until I find something of my own.

    My second workday was “interesting”. A colleague had his 40th birthday. We were sitting down in the kitchen of our office to eat some cake. News rushed in from the US. We tried to find out more, but the most news-websites were unreachable. Our boss had a new fancy cell-phone with “WAP” and he read gruesome news from his cell-phone: “A plane has hit the Pentagon”. Or: “The World Trade Center has collapsed”. On a another floor was a company who had projector running with the TV news. Some of us went there. We could see the WTC collapse. It was truly surreal.

    When I went to my temporary flat, I had to watch more. It took me maybe a day or two to focus myself again on looking for a flat. So in the next days I visited flats in Hamburg. Then news came in that some of the hijackers had lived in Hamburg. Apartments were being raided. I found something relative quickly. Then I started to think: What if one of the hijackers had lived in my place? Well thankfully that was not the case, but apartments were still being raided, and one was close to my new found home.

    Later I went to the house were Mohamed Atta had lived, but I didn’t go inside. It was in another part of town. A bit rundown, but OK. I wonder if I would have moved there, had it been closer to my work.

    Even later I med people who had studied with one of the hijacker. I learned that the “mosque” (it was more like a prayer room in a office building) where they prayed was somewhat close to my apartment.

    Then, unrelated to 9/11, I was watching TV one night, when I saw a documentary about serial killer in Hamburg. He used to chop up his victims and hide them behind panels in his apartment. The flat they showed was nicely renovated. I shudder to think that someone would live there.

    Later there was the case of Alexander Litvinenko. He had an acquaintance in Hamburg. Needless to say, the police found traces of Polonium in his flat (and not a little, the news said). I passed the nearby everyday on my way to and from work. It was in a nice area, were I was thinking to move to…

    Come to think of it, I once lived in a house that was at least 400 years old, possibly twice as old. The owner didn’t knew and it wasn’t possible to find out. I sometimes thought about the people who lived there, who died there. How they lived, how they died.

    The students residence I lived at was owned by the protestant church. It was build on a graveyard from medieval times.I take it was properly “given up” (or whatever the theological term for this is) and the remains of the dead removed, by the standards of the protestant church and that we did not “disturb the peace of the dead”. So someone I knew claimed to have known someone who had skull in his room, a skull he found when an extension to the student residence was build in the early eighties…

    We think that some kind of immaterial stain is left at a material object like a house, but unless it is contaminated (with say Polonium), there is nothing that “stays” there – and even Polonium can usually be removed…

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Tony: I live in St. Louis, Missouri, where a huge public housing complex called Pruitt-Igo was torn down because it was the scene of lots of crime. This was many years ago, but it did occur to me back then that it couldn’t be the building’s fault that there was crime. But that was the “solution.” The story is more complex than I’ve just sketched out, but the social problems were taken care of by leveling the buildings. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pruitt%E2%80%93Igoe

  2. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    When my family and I moved into our house several years ago, the real estate agent told us one of the neighboring houses had been the site of a crack house, and had been empty for a long time.

    A few days after we moved in, one of the neighbors confirmed the crack house story and added that the former owner of our house (Frank) had committed suicide after discovering he had contracted AIDS.

    Another neighbor called the AIDS story hogwash, but for many months after we moved in, we would get explicit newsletters for men seeking men dating services and swinger groups, which seemed to support first story.

    The idea that someone killed himself did not bother us, but we occasionally would joke about “Frank’s ghost” when the house made odd noises as it settled.

    To me, a crack house could be of concern as residual chemicals could be a problem.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      I agree that you might not want to buy crack house. In addition to the chemicals, you might have desperate and dangerous people visiting the house, thinking that it was still a crack house. Between buying two identical houses, one of which had been a crack house and the other not, I’d choose the second.

  3. xxx says:

    “Section 442.600 RSMo provides that sellers of such “psychologically impacted real property” need not disclose these things to new buyers.”

    You make it sound as if in Missouri there is no way a buyer can protect him or her self from buying a house with what you call “these things.”

    C’mon. Think this through.

    Pursuant to the statute, if a buyer asks a seller if the seller has knowledge of any of “these things”, does the seller have a duty to disclose them?

    Additionally, if the seller insists upon a provision in the deed that there have been none of “these things” in or about the house, does Section 442.600 RSMo prevent action on violation of that provision in the deed?

  4. Tim Hogan says:

    But, sellers or landlords might find non-statutory problems with failures to disclose known “taints” such as fraud in the inducement or otherwise.

    http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/lingering-smell-from-dead-body-at-issue-in-suit-against/article_92f5dbdf-4ea6-5909-a7ad-ccf9e26d8de3.html

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