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Is a seller legally obligated to disclose that the next door neighbor is a registered sex offender?

I just purchased a home in Utah and didn't think to research the sex offender registry until after I closed on the home. The next door neighbor is a registered sex offender. Was the seller or the seller's agent required to disclose that information?
  • July 25 2013 - Salt Lake City
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Answers (22)

No, the seller doesn't have to disclose that . The seller is obligated to disclose "material facts" and although this could be considered one, due to the Fair Housing law its really not.
  • March 13
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Profile picture for sunnyview
I appreciate the information Darren. Thumbs to you for explaining.
  • July 26 2013
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So, Darren - please keep this thread in mind when you take a CE course that deals with disclosure, and ask the instructor what their thoughts are on this, and please get back to us!

Putting our most unfortunate user aside for a moment - I think / feel / have this idea that our responsibility to the Public is greater than that to our client. Then, again, Washington is not a "fiduciary" state.

I do think we answered the question, but I am curious as to what the legal opinions are throughout the country concerning disclosure by a licensee.

Several TUs to Darren!
  • July 26 2013
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Unfortunately, that does not fall under what the seller must disclose. Your agent would know best in your area. Best of luck on your relocation. 
  • July 26 2013
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Profile picture for SLC Realtor
user8330887: I am sorry to hear about your unfortunate situation and wish you all the best when it come to the sale of your current property and the purchase of your next. As a side note, your agent may have a concern when you ask them to disclose the fact that a sex offender lives near the house because of the laws of disclosure. However, they also a fiduciary duty to you to follow any request given that does not violate any law or Fair Housing. To be safe they may ask you to sign an addendum to your listing agreement stating that, "Seller requests that information regarding the registry of sex offenders in close proximity to the house be made readily known to any potential Purchaser of the property." or something to that effect. Good luck to you! Let's hope a hardened police officer is your next buyer ;)
  • July 26 2013
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Sunnyview: We do not point directly to this law and don't expect that our clients have a full understanding either, however we do include wording in several of our forms that point to the fact that such matters are outside our license and that the duty is on the head of the buyer. For example: In the REPC we have Section 8 (Due Diligence) which states that: "Buyer’s Due Diligence shall consist of Buyer’s review and approval of the contents of the Seller Disclosures referenced in Section 7, and any other tests, evaluations and verifications of the Property deemed necessary or appropriate by Buyer, such as: the physical condition of the Property;... convicted sex offenders residing in proximity to the Property; and any other matters deemed material to Buyer in making a decision to purchase the Property... If Buyer determines, in Buyer’s sole discretion, that the results of the Due Diligence are unacceptable, Buyer may... cancel the REPC by providing written notice to Seller, whereupon the Earnest Money Deposit shall be released to Buyer without the requirement of further written authorization from Seller;"
  • July 26 2013
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Yes, Darren, and I do think the seller would be excluded from liability in Utah; thank you for that reference. However, under 61 2f 401 http://le.utah.gov/code/TITLE61/htm/61_02f040100.htm, I would have the concern that if an agent knew that there was an RSO next door, and even suspected that the purchaser's family could be endangered by this neighbor, then it MAY qualify as a Substantial and Intentional Misrepresentation.
  • July 26 2013
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Profile picture for sunnyview
"57-1-37.   Failure to disclose not a basis for liability." in Utah

Thanks for posting the info Darren. Do you have that included in your standard agency agreements so that buyer know that or is it common knowledge in your state?
  • July 26 2013
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Profile picture for SoCal Engr
Short Version - In California, there's a regulatory requirement to inform about the availability of a website identifying RSO locations, but not to specifically disclose RSO locations.

Potential REA Conflict? - If a seller's REA went beyond the regulatory disclosure requirements and disclosed the specific location(s) of one-or-more RSOs, could they be open to action for acting against the seller's interests (since it could be assumed that this will not be a "value enhancing" bit of information)?

The following is from California's DRE website, regarding disclosure requirements (and, there's a bunch)...

Written leases or rental agreements for residential real property and contracts (including real property sales contracts as defined in Civil Code Section 2985) for the sale of residential real property of 1 to 4 dwelling units must contain, in not less than eight-point type, a notice as specified in paragraph (1), (2), or (3):

(3) A contract entered into by the parties on or after April 1, 2006, shall contain the following notice:

Notice: Pursuant to Section 290.46 of the Penal Code, information about specified registered sex offenders is made available to the public via an Internet Web site maintained by the Department of Justice at
www.meganslaw.ca.gov. Depending on an offender's criminal history, this information will include either the address at which the offender resides or the community of residence and ZIP Code in which he or she resides.
  • July 26 2013
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Profile picture for user8330887
Thank you everyone for your replies! This is clearly something I fell short on researching prior to buying. It is definitely a tough subject. I now know that you are not legally obligated  to disclose that information. I am unfortunately not going to be able to live in this home. Because of the severity of my new neighbor's crimes(plural-because he is a repeat offender) and the ages of my children(fall in line with the ages of his victims) I will never have peace of mind living right next door to him. 

I have definitely chosen to fully disclose that information to any potential buyers when I re-list my home for sale. Even though I have no legal obligation too, I have a moral obligation to disclose that information. I just couldn't live with that guilt if I sold my home to a young family without them knowing the entire situation. 

Again... Thank you everyone for your replies!!!

  • July 26 2013
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Mack,

I don't particular like to discount what others say but as far as Utah law goes what I am telling you is correct. Since Utah is a non-disclosure state, the agent or owner of property is not required to make any fact know to the potential buyer excepting material facts about the property. This includes murder or death in the property, crime, and drugs.

Utah code Title 57 Chapter 1 Section 37:
57-1-37.   Failure to disclose not a basis for liability.

(1) The failure of an owner of real property to disclose that the property being offered for sale is stigmatized is not a material fact that must be disclosed in the transaction of real property.

(2) Neither an owner nor his agent is liable for failing to disclose that the property is stigmatized.

This is also why we include the Buyer Due Diligence Checklist with every transaction which states in Section 15: "Buyer is advised to consult with appropriate professionals regarding neighborhood or property conditions including... law enforcement;... crime statistics;..."


That being said, if I were representing the buyer, and I KNEW about a potential concern, I would very strongly recommend that they conduct an in-depth inspection, including crime stats.

  • July 26 2013
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Well, Darren, I tell you what. We may not have had this adjudicated in a court in Utah, but I'm willing to bet that the agent that has knowledge of an undisclosed RSO and gets taken to court gets clobbered.

Now, if you want to insure that agents who keep their knowledge of an RSO to themselves are going to be found innocent in court, then by all means, let them know that. Me, I'm not taking that bet.

Michael Emery brings up the point of how licensees are not experts in criminology. However, RSOs are "registered," and the proper disclosure would be to the effect of, "resident of 1313 Mockingbird Lane reported as a Level X SO as of 10/31/12." Not, "Gomez Addams is a perv."
  • July 25 2013
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When I went to real estate school, the instructor told a story about an agent who told prospective buyers that a sexual predator lived next door to the home that he was selling / showing.

While it was once true, it was not true at the time of sale as the predator had moved. The unjustly accused person who lived in the neighboring home sued the agent for slander.

This is why agents shouldn't tell you whether or not a sex offender lives in a neighborhood. Sometimes they get it wrong.
  • July 25 2013
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Mack is wrong, at least for the state of Utah. I agree with the moral obligation part but there is no legal obligation.
  • July 25 2013
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No.

Real estate licensees have a definite area of expertise. The license does not confer upon us the right to present ourselves as an expert on schools, crime, presence of RSOs - it is so not our job.

HOWEVER. If we knew about this - if the seller or licensee knew, I think they have both a legal and moral right to disclose this, and if the licensee did not disclose this knowledge, I would expect them to be liable in court.
  • July 25 2013
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Thank you! This has definitely been a tough lesson to learn. I clearly didn't do as much due diligence as I should have. 

  • July 25 2013
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Due diligence is underrated --- *sigh*
  • July 25 2013
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In California, we have a Megan's Law disclosure for all buyers to sign during the inspection/disclosure contingency period. What did your agent tell you?
  • July 25 2013
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It should be the buyer's responsibility. There is also megans law website available for the public to look if they are so inclined. 
  • July 25 2013
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Utah is a non-disclosure state. Meaning that it is the buyers responsibility to find out any information they might consider relevant to making a decision before making a purchase. The seller must only disclose anything they know about the house that would not be easily detected by the buyer with an inspection. Darren Watson Equity Real Estate Utah
  • July 25 2013
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The Seller obviously can choose to disclose this, if they are aware of it. But to the best of my knowledge they are not legally required to in Utah. The burden is on the buyer to search for this info during the Due Diligence period of the purchase. It's an unfortunate situation for sure, and I'm sorry that info didn't come to light sooner. 

Thanks,
Dustin Brohm, REALTOR
[website deleted by Zillow moderator. Please see our Good Neighbor Policy for posting guidelines]
  • July 25 2013
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This is the buyer's responsibility. 

  • July 25 2013
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