'Suicide house' owners felt uneasy

Last updated 15:52 06/06/2014

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The owners of a house in which a previous tenant had committed suicide should have been told its history before they bought it, the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal says.

In a decision released this week, the tribunal upheld an earlier decision by the Real Estate Agents Authority's complaints assessment committee that the agent, Barfoot & Thompson, had engaged in "unsatisfactory conduct" in not disclosing the suicide.

But it dismissed an appeal by the buyers seeking compensation.

The tribunal heard that Richard and Evette Campbell had bought a house in the southeastern Auckland suburb of Dannemora, unaware that a "sad event" had recently occurred there.

The house had previously been let to tenants from 2009, one of whom had committed suicide at the house. In December 2011 the house was listed for sale by Century 21 and Barfoot & Thompson.

Century 21's branch manager informed the Barfoot salesman and his branch manager of the suicide.

The Barfoot branch manager consulted Barfoot director Garth Barfoot, who decided no information about the suicide needed to be disclosed while the property was being marketed.

When the Campbells bought the house through Barfoot & Thompson in January 2012, they had not been informed of the suicide.

Five months after moving in and becoming aware of the home's history from neighbours, the Campbells put the house back on the market as it was "dark and felt depressing" and they "felt uneasy".

In his decision, tribunal chairman Judge Paul Barber said Barfoot had decided that the suicide was a personal matter which only related to the previous occupants and had no relevance to the condition of the property.

But Barber said the complaints assessment committee had been correct in its earlier decision to censure Barfoot & Thompson without further penalty.

"Simply put, we think that the fair thing was, quite clearly, for Barfoots to disclose in succinct and general terms the sad event to reasonably interested prospective purchasers," Barber said.

"For many people the suicide event would be off-putting and affect use and enjoyment of the property."

However, Barber said that the issue "must of its nature remain a fairly grey area and relate to the precise facts of a situation".

Where to get help

  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354 - Provides 24 hour telephone counselling

  • Youthline: 0800 376 633 or free text 234 - Provides 24 hour telephone and text counselling services for young people

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  • Samaritans: 0800 726 666 - Provides 24 hour telephone counselling.

  • Tautoko: 0508 828 865 - provides support, information and resources to people at risk of suicide, and their family, whānau and friends.

  • Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (noon to 11pm)

  • Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (4pm - 6pm weekdays)

If it is an emergency or you feel you or someone you know is at risk, please call 111

For information about suicide prevention, see http://www.spinz.org.nz.

- Stuff

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