Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters! But in this case, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division was the one that was called. In this week’s real estate case, Cassie, Ali and Danielle cover Stambovsky v. Ackley, better known as the Ghostbuster Ruling.
The owner of the house advertised their house as haunted by ghosts to the public, but when the buyer wanted to rescind his offer due to the hauntings being unbeknownst to him, they went to the court to get this settled.
This episode was requested by a listener that goes by the internet name, Garbage Skeleton. If you have a court case you would like covered, please send your request on Instagram @agentsunfiltered
Cassie: Hey, what a day!
Ali: Alright, we had a request this week, you guys.
Danielle: Yeah, what was it?
Ali: From Garbage Skeleton. Thanks, Garbage Skeleton. We love you. So, this follower asked for us to discuss the Stambovsky versus Ackley ruling.
They called it the Ghostbusters ruling because essentially it was about Stambovsky buying a house from Ackley, who had a long-running reputation for poltergeist activity. Ackley had been featured in magazines and was part of a ghost tour in New York. Helen Ackley, the owner, reported poltergeist presence in the house multiple times between 1977 and 1989, even disclosing it to the potential buyer, Jeffrey Stambovsky.
She insisted that she wouldn’t fully accept the offer until she knew he was aware. Stambovsky initially took it lightly, joking about being the Ghostbusters house. However, after being under contract, Ackley disclosed more stories to him, and he wanted to rescind the contract.
The New York Supreme Court dismissed Stambovsky’s legal action, stating that the realtor had no duty to disclose the haunting due to the doctrine of caveat emptor (buyer beware). This decision was appealed, and the Appellate Court concluded that the haunting significantly impacted the house’s value, regardless of the actual existence of ghosts.
While the fraudulent misrepresentation claim was dismissed, the court allowed Stambovsky to rescind the contract. The court argued that the haunting was not a condition a buyer could reasonably discover through inspection. Despite caveat emptor, the court believed equity should prevail when the seller takes unfair advantage of the buyer’s ignorance.
The case generated publicity, and the house was eventually sold for a higher value. Stambovsky’s loss, totaling $32,000, sparked discussion on the importance of having disclosures in writing and considering potential impacts on property values.