Attracting good tenants to rent an investment property over the long term is what every landlord aims for.
To achieve this, a rigorous landlord will ensure the property is well maintained and presented with plenty of information about its features, amenities and even its history.
However, one aspect of this history that can cause anxiety to both landlords and renters is whether someone has previously died in the property.
Whilst this can be a sensitive subject, there are clear laws in Australia that will guide a landlord’s conduct in broaching the subject.
The ‘material fact’ of death
Death is a natural part of life. Every day in Australia people who rent from landlords die in the property.
However, not all deaths are the same, and Australian common law recognises this when dealing with what should be disclosed for rental properties.
Under the law – which is broadly the same in all states and territories – real estate agents and vendors must disclose any and all information that a reasonable person would deem to be ‘material fact’ about the property.
Material fact broadly covers instances of death brought about by violent crimes such as murder. Properties where violent deaths have occurred come to be regarded as ‘stigmatised.’
There is even a provision for superstitious beliefs about ghosts, which could apply to a historic building with a famed haunted story, for example.
Honesty is the best policy
Failing to disclose ‘material facts’ such as a violent death within your property could expose landlords to legal fines and sour a relationship with tenants.
However, this is the extreme end of the scale, and the vast majority of deaths that occur within Australian rental properties can be argued not to fall under material fact.
So just as common law is driven by common sense, if someone has died on your property in what could reasonably be considered regular circumstances, then it’s at your discretion whether to disclose it or not.
However, the tenant could find out about the death from neighbours or their own research, leading them to question why they weren’t told.
Death is a natural part of life, and most tenants will understand and accept this if you do decide to disclose it.
The key to developing a good, long-term relationship with a reliable tenant is through clear communication. So if you need to disclose a death within your property, it’s wise to be up front about it.