- The federal law requiring a public registry of known sex offenders came into effect in 1996 as a result of the brutal rape and murder in 1994 of seven year old Megan Kanka
, by a convicted sex offender living in her neighborhood.
The U.S. Department of Justice delegated implementation of Megan's Law to the states, including the issue of whether a seller and a real estate agent must disclose such information to a prospective buyer or tenant.
The issue was decided in December 4, 2000 by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Second Department in the case of Glazer v. LoPreste.
The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants and their real estate agent had fraudulently misrepresented that the house was a good place to raise children, and fraudulently concealed the fact that a convicted sex offender lived in the neighborhood, in fact, across the street from the house that the plaintiffs purchased.
The court stated that the record was devoid of evidence that the plaintiffs made any effort to discover the character of the surrounding neighborhood, or that the defendants thwarted the plaintiffs' efforts to discover facts about the neighbors.
The court further stated that the alleged misrepresentation made by the respondents were no more than expressions of opinion which cannot sustain a cause of action alleging fraud.
Moreover, the court opined, the information that was allegedly withheld was not "peculiarly within the knowledge of the seller or unlikely to be discovered by a prudent purchaser exercising due care with respect to the subject transaction." Local newspapers, including the newspaper serving the community in which the plaintiffs lived before the purchase, had been publishing articles regarding the charges against the neighbor and his subsequent plea of guilty for at least two years prior to the sale in question.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the complaints against the sellers and the real estate agent.
The National Association of Realtors advocates that Megan's Law information should be disseminated solely by the law enforcement officials who maintain the information to ensure that it is provided to the public properly and accurately.
The law in New York does not preclude adherence to a higher standard. If a real estate agent knows that there is a sex offender living in the neighborhood, they may ask permission of the seller to disclose that information it they are representing the seller, and if permission is denied, reject the listing.
If the real estate agent is representing the buyer or tenant the agent would have a fiduciary responsibility to the buyer or tenant to search the public record for any known sex offenders living in the neighborhood and disclose the facts to the buyer or tenant.
Very understandably, issues with regard to Megan's Law are emotionally charged. I think it would be prudent for all parties to the transaction to consider their responsibilities within that context.
: John will be teaching a 22.5 hours Real Estate Continuing Education classes at Long Island University in Riverhead on January 16, January 18, and January 20. For information and registration contact Rosemary Malone at 631-287-8334 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John is a St. John's University graduate, licensed Real Estate broker, lecturer, teaches real estate license classes at LIU and NYU, and acts as a consultant to the real estate industry. www.johnaviteritti.com