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Man Sued Real Estate Agent After Buying “Haunted House”

An AI image of a haunted house

The quiet town of Nyack, New York, is the home of a genuine "haunted house" which became the center of a crazy lawsuit.

The story started in the late 1980s, when Jeffrey Stambovsky, unaware of the home's notoriety, put down a deposit on what appeared to be a charming Victorian house.

The previous owner, Helen Ackley, had lived there for years.

She had often regaled the media with tales of her family's otherworldly encounters.

She claimed to have seen phantoms at the foot of her bed and spirits watching over her grandchildren.

Her stories had become well-known locally and had even captured the attention of national publications like Reader’s Digest.

However, Stambovsky was oblivious to the spooky tales, and agreed to purchase the home.

Strangely, it also slipped the minds of any of the real estate agents tasked with selling it.

The sale was many years before the internet so doing more detailed research would've been a lot harder than it is today.

In fact, Stambovsky only found out about the spooky goings on after signing a contract.

He tried to pull out of the deal.

He argued the house's "haunted" status should have been disclosed as it affected the property's value and his desire to live in it.

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The Ghostbusters Ruling

The case went to court with the Stambovsky suing the agents and Ackley herself, and Stambovsky's case was dismissed.

The judge ruled on the side of the agents, deeming it was down to Stambovsky to carry out the necessary research before buying the home.

However, he took it back to the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court.

The subsequent decision made legal history.

The court official declared the house to be haunted and therefore not subject to the usual "buyer beware" rules.

It was ruled that regardless of whether spirits can be shown to exist, the fact that the house was widely reputed to possess them markedly altered its value.

Impact on Real Estate Law

Stambovsky v. Ackley prompted a reevaluation of what sellers must disclose during real estate transactions, particularly concerning stigmatized properties.

It has become a pivotal case study in law schools and real estate courses, highlighting the importance of disclosure and the limits of "caveat emptor" or "buyer beware."

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