Breaking lease can cost you, even if unit is haunted

What do you do if you sign a lease for an apartment, but then want to break the lease because you believe the apartment is haunted? The term for a property that is believed to be haunted is as a “stigmatized property,” and genereally, realtors, homeowners, and landlords are not required to release information of murders or suicides committed previously in the home. However, if asked, usually these ought to be disclosed. A “professional psychic” recently wrote to the Consumer Action section of the Press of Atlantic City website to determine what to do about her daughter, whom she believes lives in a haunted apartment. I think the responder handled the question well:

Let’s just look at the legal facts, since no one can prove or disprove the existence of ghosts:

First, the name you gave us of the person who supposedly killed himself in the apartment never showed up in The Press of Atlantic City’s obituary pages. So the first owner may have made up the story of the suicide, especially since he’s in a legal dispute with the new landlord.

Second, since the landlord who rented the apartment to you had no knowledge of the supposed suicide, he is the one potentially stuck with owning a stigmatized property.

Under New Jersey law, sellers are supposed to disclose to buyers of residential property any material defects or other problems that may adversely affect the value of the property. While murders and suicides that happened on a property are not required to be disclosed, if asked directly about such events, sellers are supposed to disclose them.

Your daughter moved out before giving the landlord a chance to address the problems. Under New Jersey law, if you have material problems that affect your health or safety, you must report them to the landlord and give him or her a reasonable chance to fix them. If those problems are not fixed in a reasonable amount of time, you can legally break a lease.

All of this aside, judging from the description of the activities going on at this apartment, I think it may be wise for the landlord to call an electrician, make sure the floors are level, and do a simple Google search on “black dust” on the ceiling to see that the problem is perhaps lead-related, and also linked to lead poisoning. Eek!

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