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Renter shocked to learn home's dark history

Colorado law prevents real estate brokers from revealing murders/suicides

Renter shocked to learn home's dark history

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A Colorado real estate law has some homeowners concerned they don't know the whole truth about their home.

The law states that without informed consent of the landlord, real estate brokers cannot disclose "any facts or suspicions regarding circumstances that could psychologically impact or stigmatize the Property." 

That means if there was a murder at a home previously, real estate agents in Colorado cannot tell you without permission from the seller.

"There's a pretty good chance if it's an older house that someone died there," said Rachel Buller, a real estate broker with Manitou Springs Real Estate. "But do they really want to know if someone died or if someone got murdered?"

Brian Hills and his family learned that the hard way when they moved into an eastside Colorado Springs home in 2009.

"Things always seemed weird there," Hills said.  "The kids would say they'd seen some figures at nighttime and stuff. I figured it was just kids having fun, ghost stories, things like that. I didn't really take it very seriously."

But Hills did a little research, albeit in a peculiar place, and was shocked.

Hills said he used a phone app that claims to pick up energies.  He admits he was skeptical, but wanted to put his kids' minds at ease.  The app provided key words, he said, including pearl and murder. With those words, he searched his home online and learned about the Bonicelli's.

Joe Bonicelli was a previous owner of the home. In 1975, Eloise Bonicelli was shot and killed by a barber -- a hitman who investigators later said was hired by her husband, Joe.  Joe Bonicelli owned a partial share of a 14-pound pearl known as the Pearl of Allah, believed to be the largest pearl in the world and valued at tens of millions of dollars.  Joe died in 1998.

"It blew my mind to see that there actually might be something to it," Hills said.  "Nobody wants to live in a murder house."

Hills said even though the family ended up moving out of the home, the revelation didn't really bother him.  However, he was surprised to learn that real estate brokers not only didn't have an obligation to tell him about the home's previous owners, they were not allowed.

"That does surprise me," Hills said. "I would think it'd be more of a full disclosure and not trying to hide something. I would imagine a lot of people would like to know and it would alter where they choose to live. It's probably important to find out, but for me it doesn't make a different. Anywhere you go, there could be ghosts around anywhere. There's history in any part of the city and anywhere you live."

Buller emphasized that it's up to the buyer or renter to do the research if they are concerned about a home's dark history.

"I don't think people usually, when they're renting a house, check to see if there's been murders in it," Buller said.

One website allows you to search your address and claims to tell you if someone died there. The website, DiedInHouse.com, charges $11.99 per search. For some homeowners, it's worth the peace of mind.

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