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Haunted House Law Update

In honor of Halloween, we bring you an American case from New York, Jeffrey Stambovsky v. Helen v. Ackley, 169AD2d254(1991).

The court said at 256:

Plaintiff, to his horror, discovered that the house he had recently contracted to purchase was widely reputed to be possessed by poltergeists, reportedly seen by defendant seller and members of her family on numerous occasions over the last nine years. Plaintiff promptly commenced this action seeking rescission of the contract of sale. Supreme Court reluctantly dismissed the complaint, holding that plaintiff has no remedy at law in this jurisdiction.

The court went on:

...Whether the source of the spectral apparitions seen by defendant seller are parapsychic or psychogenic, having reported their presence in both a national publication (Readers' Digest) and the local press (in 1977 and 1982, respectively), defendant is estopped to deny their existence and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted. More to the point, however, no divination is required to conclude that it is defendant's promotional efforts in publicizing her close encounters with these spirits which fostered the home's reputation in the community. In 1989, the house was included in five-home walking tour of Nyack and described in a November 27th newspaper article as "a riverfront Victorian (with ghost)." The impact of the reputation thus created goes to the very essence of the bargain between the parties, greatly impairing both the value of the property and its potential for resale.

The Court allowed the Defendant to get out of the contract. The moral seems to be, at least in New York, if you have a haunted house, do not widely advertise that fact prior to selling it. Haunted house law has not been so clarified in Canada, and so we are expectantly waiting the first case on this matter.

If you have a haunted house in similar circumstances and wish to consult a lawyer, please feel to contact us. At the very least we can point you in the direction of the Ghostbusters.

The information contained in this article is not legal advice. No solicitor client relationship is formed through this article. The reader is encouraged to retain counsel for advice in these matters.

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