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Residential real estate agents need not disclose all house info

When people are looking to purchase new homes, they may have in mind a list of deal breakers. They may not want carpeting in the bathroom or electric heat, and homes with those features are eliminated from consideration. However, what some may not know about buying residential real estate in Alberta is that potential homes may have hidden flaws an agent is not required to reveal unless asked. These typically involve the house's history.

If someone died in the house or if the house is reportedly haunted, real estate law does not consider the house defective. In fact, because more people remain in their homes as they grow older, the likelihood that someone has died in a house is high. If house hunters are concerned about that possibility -- perhaps for religious, superstitious or other personal reasons -- they must specifically request that an agent avoid homes where someone has died or that have a history of supposed paranormal activity.

Of increasing concern to homebuyers is the possibility that a house was formerly a marijuana growing operation or meth lab. Houses may look fine during a walk-through. However, a new coat of paint may be covering the dangerous vestiges of the criminal activity.

For example, humid conditions required for a marijuana operation may produce mould or fungus in the walls. Chemicals used in drug manufacturing may linger in the water system. Structural and systematic modifications are sometimes made to the house to accommodate illegal activities.

Discovering these problems before making a purchase makes it easy for one to walk away, so experts recommend asking one's agent many questions. However, if these issues surface after one has moved in, a lawyer may be needed. Having legal counsel with extensive experience in Alberta residential real estate disputes is the best way for people to protect the investment they have worked so hard to obtain.

Source: cbc.ca, "Your dream home could have been a crime scene", Nola Keeler, Jan. 8, 2017

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