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Residential Real Estate Contracts: When The Unexpected Occurs

Buying a condominium or home is often one of the highest-value transactions that a person will make. Given how much is on the line, it makes sense that a person would want to ensure that every detail is considered before finalizing their purchase.

From having a thorough home inspection to learning about the neighbourhood, due diligence is important. But what can you do if unforeseen circumstances present themselves once you have paid your deposit? A recent case in Vancouver helps shed some light.

Listing A Crime Scene

In 2009, a woman agreed to purchase a home in Vancouver for $6,138,000. As per the contract, she paid a deposit of $300,000. She intended to take possession of the home shortly thereafter. Five days after paying the final installment of her deposit, the would-be buyer learned that two years earlier, a murder had taken place on the property of her new home. A man was gunned down outside of the house and the individual or individuals responsible had never been apprehended.

While touring the home prior to making an offer, the plaintiff inquired as to why the property was being sold. The defendant explained that her family intended to relocate to be closer to a school.

The Duty To Make Full And Complete Disclosure

Once the plaintiff discovered what had happened at the home, she withdrew from the contract in fear for her safety and that of her family. The defendant, who had mentioned the crime to her listing agent and had inquired as to whether she should disclose it to prospective buyers, claimed that the plaintiff had breached her contract and owed an additional $338,000 in damages.

When questioned, the defendant admitted that one of the reasons behind her decision to sell the home was concern for her family’s safety following the murder. Ultimately, the court decided that the defendant was entitled to have her deposit refunded and the plaintiff’s claims were dismissed. The home in question was later sold to another buyer for $5,500,000. The second buyer was made aware of the murder prior to purchasing the home.

Protecting The Buyers Best Interests

While this case represents a particularly unique situation, home buyers often find themselves encountering unexpected roadblocks during the purchasing process. Given the complexity of residential real estate transactions, having the guidance of a skilled real estate lawyer is critical. From ensuring that Property Disclosure Statements are complete and accurate to providing practical advice, a real estate lawyer is an invaluable tool when it comes to protecting what matters the most.