« Canada needs to get it right on pension reforms | Main | Can money buy a winning baseball team? »

July 16, 2021

What constitutes full disclosure when selling a house?

Would you want to know if the house you were buying had once had human ashes buried in the back yard? I would, but no one would have to tell me it seems.

Recently, one Toronto couple bought a midtown house with plans to demolish and rebuild it. They were in the process of obtaining permits from the City of Toronto when someone alluded to the house's history.

It turned out that the widow of a previous owner had buried her husband’s ashes in the back yard even though they'd originally been stored in a cemetery vault.

After awhile, the couple found and removed them. But they were worried, since the back yard had been used temporarily as a burial ground for human remains, whether the property was 'stigmatized' -- in other words, whether they would have to fess up to future buyers.

No, they don't, explains Toronto lawyer Bob Aaron.

In Ontario, at least, sellers have no legal obligation to disclose information about suicides, murders or any other matters which might stigmatize the house, he explains.

Aaron likens the incident to the temporary storage of an urn containing human ashes on a mantelpiece.  Once removed, there's no longer any possible stigmatization of the property, he notes.

"My clients were very relieved, but I’m not sure everyone would feel the same way," he admits.

I'll say.

Would you care if human ashes had been buried, temporarily or permanently, in the back yard of a house you were buying?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



Post a comment


Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...