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VERIFY: No, you don't need to tell homebuyers about nearby smells, but you probably should

Technically, sellers do not have to disclose a smell in the air that originates elsewhere. However, real estate agent advises sellers to be honest with buyers.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — QUESTION: Do sellers have to disclose to potential buyers that there is an odor in the air? 

ANSWER: No, technically, sellers do not have to disclose a smell in the air that originates elsewhere. However, real estate agents advise sellers to be honest with buyers if the smell is egregious to avoid any legal issues. 



First, we went through several pages of both North and South Carolina disclosure rules and information. 

We found a section in the disclosure for South Carolina, saying in part, "any material information on the disclosure statement that the seller knows to be false, incomplete or misleading is liable for actual damages." 

Meanwhile, the VERIFY team found a specific box owners need to check off in North Carolina's disclosure form, which asks:

"Is there any noise, odor, smoke, etc. from commercial, industrial, or military sources which affects the property?"

When we took the question to Hoffman, he told us sellers technically don't need to disclose because it's not a material fact. A material fact in real estate can be somewhat of a grey area, according to him. 

 "It's a fine line, it's not a material fact because it's not attached to that property. It's not like my home had a spill that caused a smell. It's a smell an hour south so it's tough to attach it to the plant for any one particular house," said Hoffman. 

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Hoffman said his firm is disclosing the smell coming from the New Indy paper mill in Catawba. If sellers do notice, and he believes other firms should disclose that information as well. 

"Just a rule of thumb is if it's something that bothers your client and listing agent, it may bother a buyer, and so it's just the right thing to do," said Hoffman. 

If sellers withhold information like that, it could potentially land them in some trouble later down the road, according to Hoffman. 

"Say the smell bothered me and I never said anything and I sold my home to you, and then three years later you want to sell and because you noticed the smell and you did disclose it, and the value is ten percent lower, you could come back to me the sell for damages cause you bought the property at fair market value," said Hoffman. 

Contact Meghan Bragg at mbragg@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

VERIFY is dedicated to helping the public distinguish between true and false information. The VERIFY team, with help from questions submitted by the audience, tracks the spread of stories or claims that need clarification or correction. Have something you want VERIFIED? Text us at 704-329-3600 or visit /verify.

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