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“The Ghostbusters Ruling”

NY Court Holds House To Be Legally Haunted

Happy October from all of us at Curcio Law!!! In the spirit of Halloween, we would like to share a ruling with you from the 1991 New York Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, First Judicial Department. This ghoulishly famous property law case, Stambovsky v. Ackley, 169 A.D.2d 254 (N.Y. App. Div.1 1991), or as it is more commonly known as the “Ghostbusters Ruling.

This unique New York case asserted the sellers of a home in Nyack, NY, did not disclose to the buyer that they believed their house was haunted. This case is unique because the seller openly advertised her home as haunted before putting it for sale on the market. The seller previously reported the presence of ghosts in her home and proudly had it published in both a national publication (Readers’ Digest) and local press. The house was also included in walking tours of Nyack and described in a local article as “a riverfront Victorian (with ghost.)”

Once the home buyer learned of its reputation of being haunted, they wanted out of the contract. The seller denied them this.

The New York First Appellate Division allowed the buyer to get out of the contract, which is an incredibly unique ruling, as the Court notes. In New York, the seller of a home typically does not have a duty to disclose, and it is the buyer’s obligation to protect themselves from any discoverable defects.

However, in a case like this, where the seller actively advertised the home as haunted to the public for years, both at a local and national level, the Court stopped them from denying the house was haunted and held “as a matter of law, the house is haunted.” (Id at 256.)

The Court further held that the most prudent purchaser would not be expected even to contemplate that the house could have a reputation for being haunted. The Court further quipped that it was “moved by the spirit of equity to allow the buyer to seek rescission of the contract of sale and recovery of his down payment.” (Id emphasis added).

For a more in-depth discussion of this interesting case, please listen to the “This Is Criminal podcast.” This episode of This Is Criminal podcast is kid-friendly.

Please note this is a unique and unusual ruling from a New York Court, which has no bearing on Virginia law.

Enjoy, and stay tuned for more interesting Halloween-and-the-law themed blogs this Halloween Season!!!

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