To what extent do you have to answer a purchaser’s question if you are selling your home? You don’t have to answer questions at all, but practically speaking that won’t help sell your home. If you do answer a question then you must do so honestly, but you don’t have to volunteer information beyond the scope of the purchaser’s question.
This issue was recently addressed in a case decided by the BC Court of Appeal. In that case, there had been a gang-related murder at a property in the lower mainland. As an indirect result of that murder the deceased’s family wanted to move so their children would be able to attend a different school. When the property where the murder took place was listed for sale and a prospective purchaser asked why the family was selling, the family explained that they wanted their children to attend a different school, but they did not disclose anything about the murder. When the purchaser later found out about the murder they did not want to proceed with the purchase, and the parties went to court. It was ultimately determined that the seller had honestly answered the purchaser’s question regarding the move and was not obligated to disclose any further information beyond that. If a murder and/or gang-related activity was important to the purchaser, then the purchaser had the responsibility to ask direct questions about those points.
The facts of this case are a rare circumstance, but the legal principle of what information a seller must to disclose to a purchaser applies to every transaction. For example, if a purchaser asks you why you are selling your home, and you reply that you are moving cities you don’t need to go into details beyond that. For example, you do not have to disclose that you have gone through a bad separation and you need a change, or that you don’t like your neighbours. Your obligation as a seller is to only answer the question that was asked.
From a purchaser’s perspective it is important to know that the law of ‘buyer beware’ remains alive and well in BC. If you are a purchaser and a particular matter is important to you then you have obligation to make all inquiries and you cannot rely on a seller to volunteer this information. These inquiries include hiring appropriate professionals to investigate the condition of the home, having a lawyer conduct a title and contract review before your remove subjects, and to ask clear and direct questions regarding any matter that is important to you.
The foregoing is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. If you require legal advice, please contact the author who would be pleased to discuss the issues above with you in the context of your particular circumstances.