In Québec, when a seller decides to sell an immovable
(real) property, he or she is obligated to complete, with the help
of a real estate agent, a mandatory form entitled Declarations
by the Seller of the Immovable. Question 13.8 D of this
form reads as follows:
To your knowledge, has there ever been a suicide or violent
death in the immovable?
To what extent does such information affect the sale of an
immovable? According to the Superior Court of Québec in the
recent case of Fortin v. Mercier, 2013 QCCS 5890
("Fortin"), this information could have a significant
impact on the sale of a property. Indeed, the Superior Court
considered the omission to disclose the fact that a suicide
occurred in the immovable as an action that could lead to defect of
consent and, consequently, the annulment of the sale.
Summary of the case
The facts of Fortin can be briefly summarized as follows: Mr.
Mercier, the defendant, owned an immovable in which the previous
owners had committed suicide. The real estate brokers hired by Mr.
Mercier advised him of his obligation to disclose said information
in the Declarations by the Seller of the Immovable.
However, as time went on and no offer was made on the immovable,
Mr. Mercier decided not to disclose the suicide to potential
buyers. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Fortin and Ms. Bolduc, the
plaintiffs, visited the immovable, at which time Mr. Mercier never
mentioned the suicide to them. Eventually, the plaintiffs bought
the house, still unaware of its dark past. During the move, the
neighbour informed Ms. Bolduc that a suicide had occurred in her
house. Both plaintiffs were greatly distressed by the news. They
maintained that they had purchased a house to start a family and
would never have purchased that particular house had they known
that a violent death had taken place there.
The Superior Court judges, granting the plaintiffs' motion,
declared the nullity of the deed of sale and granted the plaintiffs
moral damages. The Court concluded that the omission by a seller or
an agent to disclose the occurrence of a suicide or a violent death
in an immovable constitutes deceit and the buyer's consent is
therefore vitiated. The occurrence of a suicide or another violent
death in an immovable is a piece of information likely to affect
the immovable transaction. Without such information, potential
buyers cannot make an informed decision with regard to the
conclusion of a deed of sale. The Court clarifies that the omission
to disclose a suicide is not a latent defect as the immovable is
not defective in itself; rather, it is the buyer's consent that
This decision confirms the principle that sellers have an
obligation to disclose the occurrence of a suicide or violent death
to potential buyers in the context of an immovable sale, at the
risk of seeing their sale annulled due to defect of consent.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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