A question was posed to me in a CPD class in Canberra last week regarding whether suicide was a material fact that needed to be disclosed to potential purchasers. They further asked me whether, if the house was knocked down and sold as land only, does the suicide matter anymore?
Interestingly enough, the rules between NSW and ACT are remarkably different. They were the same before 23 March 2020, but with the reforms put in place in NSW the situation has changed dramatically.
In NSW suicide in not a material fact anymore. Section 52 of the Property and Stock Agents Act 2002 may seem to sit on the fence for an Agent: but not to disclose material fact that induces a person to enter into a Contract is an offence. Unlike the laws in the ACT, material fact is limited to those factors set out in the regulations. The regulations set out seven different material facts an Agent must disclose. They can be summarised as:-
- the agent must disclose a fire or flood that has occurred in the past five years.
- the agent must disclose any health or safety issues in the property ;the agent must disclose a fire or flood that has occurred in the past five years.
- the agent must disclose whether the house is on the Loose Asbestos Register.
- the agent must disclose whether there has been an offence of murder or manslaughter in the past 5 years;
- the agent must disclose whether the property is being used as manufacturing plant for prohibited drugs; and
- the final two material facts relate to the agent having to disclose issues that relate to combustible cladding.
Suicide does not fit within these seven criteria. Hence, in NSW now, no one has to disclose a suicide event that has occurred in the house.
Nevertheless, our ACT friends are not that lucky. They are left with the generic terms that relate to material fact. A material fact is any with significant relevance that a buyer may want to know when buying a property. The question is whether suicide is a factor which a potential purchaser would want to know about when buying a property. If is recent, under the rules that exist in the ACT, it is a material fact. What happens if the house is knocked down and being sold as land only? Well, there is no suicide that happened on the land, it happened within the property. Once the house is gone, the material fact will disappear.
Maybe, the trick is to knock down every house, sell for land only, to avoid the problems of the where a material fact!