Image Credit ABC News

Lately, there have been all sorts of news coverage regarding a New Jersey couple suing their landlord because he did not disclose that the property they were renting was haunted.  On March 1, tenants Josue Chinchilla and fiancé Michele Callan moved into their three bedroom rental inToms River with Callan’s two children.  Thirteen days later, the family fled the home and moved into a hotel claiming paranormal activity drove them away.  The activity included hearing voices, lights flickering on and off, and clothes being flung across the room.

Josue and Michele hired the paranormal investigators, Shore Paranormal Research Society, to investigate their rental property.  The investigators confirmed the paranormal activity, but were unable to determine if the “intelligent haunting” was related to the house.  The couple states that they did not bring the haunting with them, and the landlord denies the existence of a haunting had ever occurred on this property.

New Jersey law is not specific in regards to disclosure on haunted rental houses.  However, when selling a home the law states that the owner must disclose whether a murder had occurred on the property only if the buyer asks, but, according to a reputable article on the internet (Haunted Houses and Psychological Impairment),  New Jersey disclosure laws do state that an owner must disclose anything that would cause psychological impairment, including a haunted house.  The question is whether this law applies to rental property.

There are several psychological impairments that can occur when an individual is unwillingly subjected to a haunting.  People may suffer from chronic stress due to an all-consuming fear that will manifest into anxiety and panic attacks.  If anxiety remains consistent, other medical concerns can arise.  Chronic heartburn, fatigue, depression, heart failure, and stroke are just a few problems that can result from chronic anxiety. 

Asking someone to live out their lease in a home that would subject them to chronic fear because the landlord did not want to break their agreement is absurd.  Whether he knew about the hauntings or not, it is inhumane and immoral for another human being to subject others to that sort of terror.  Yet, does it matter? Or does it only matter that the tenants believe the house is haunted?  The courts will have to decide that.

The tenants have moved out, and are only requesting their security deposit back.  They were not looking for damages in moving expenses, hotel bills, or psychological impairments.

I say, Dr. Richard Lopez give them back their security deposit!

  1. truefinds says:

    The courts would be opening up a whole can of worms if they agreed with the tenants on this one, I feel. What would prevent future unscrulous tenants from making false haunting claims in order to get out of leases or to extort money from innocent landlords whenever they wanted. On the other hand, I think this landlord would be better off giving his tenants back their deposit just to get rid of them.

    • Debi Chestnut says:

      I agree it will open a can of worms, and I don’t know how a renter or homeowner would prove a house was or wasn’t haunted in a way that would satisfy the court. Still, if the court follows the apparent law in New Jersey that says a homeowner has to disclose such things, it will be interesting.

      What I’d like to know is whether that law applies in landlord/tenant relationships.

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