Haunting questions

2014-02

A client was interested in buying a residential property and asked his estate agent twice whether any death incident had occurred in the property or if was haunted. The estate agent replied that there was no such problem with the property.

After completing the transaction, the client found a news article reporting that a man with a name similar to the former owner of the property committed suicide at home.

The reported address of the deceased was on the same floor and in the same building as the property that the client just bought.

The client thus suspected a suicide case might have occurred in the property and lodged a complaint with the EAA.

During the investigation, the EAA found that the land search of the property contained a registration of an entry relating to the death of the former owner of the property. The estate agent did not inform the client of this entry and did not provide a copy of the land search record to the client.

In this case, the agent failed to comply with the Code of Ethics issued by the EAA, as he failed to carry out reasonable and practicable steps to check whether any death incident had occurred in the property.
He also failed to provide a copy of the land search of the property to the purchaser immediately before the provisional agreement for sale and purchase was entered into, which is required by the Estate Agents Practice (General Duties and Hong Kong Residential Properties) Regulation.

Although the Estate Agents Ordinance does not require estate agents to tell their clients whether a property is “haunted,” they should try their best to provide the client with the related information when asked.

Consumers are advised to ask estate agents specific questions – for example, whether a suicide or homicide took place in the flat before, and avoid using vague terms, such as whether the flat is “haunted” or “cursed.”