A young couple with three children claim they had no idea the Long Island dream home they purchased last month was the site of two gruesome MS-13 murders, raising serious issues about real estate disclosure laws.
The home, which is located at 6 Ray Court and sold for $320,000, is right in front of the woods where MS-13 members dropped the bodies of two teenage girls after hacking them with a machete in 2016.
The couple learned about the home’s grizzly history after seeing teenagers laying flowers and lighting candles near their house. As it turned out, the mother of one of the girls killed by MS-13 in 2016 was fatally struck by a car a few days earlier. According to the police, the driver had previously tried to destroy a memorial that Evelyn Rodriguez had set up for her daughter in front of the couple’s house.
“The real estate agent said nothing [of the property’s past], obviously, because they wouldn’t have been able to sell,” one of the two homeowners, who chose to remain anonymous, told the New York Post on Sunday.
MS-13, which originated in Los Angeles during the 1980s, rose to national prominence when President Donald Trump called it a “ruthless gang that has violated our borders” and brought up the teenage murders as an argument for tightening immigration laws.
While dozens of states require sellers to complete sale disclosure forms before the sale, what is or isn’t mandatory information varies from state to state and isn’t always clear. Details about a neighborhood — rather than the house itself — are particularly murky territory, as they fall outside the house itself.
And sometimes responsibility gets shifted around — Oneyda Gallardo, the owner of Empire Home Realty, which listed the property, told The New York Post that it was the broker who worked with the couple, Carlos Amaya of Exit Realty Achieve, who should have been the one to disclose the neighborhood’s past.
“I am not responsible for someone else to sell one of my listings and not disclose to their clients,’ Gallardo told the Post. Neither she nor Amaya responded to multiple requests for comment by Inman.
But Sam Pawlitzki, a Realtor with Beach Cities Real Estate, said agents who sell a house without disclosing problems could be hit with later fraud or negligence lawsuits.
“Not only is there a legal obligation, most agents operate under a code of ethics which is usually enforced by a local association of Realtors,” Pawlitzki told Inman. “Any known problems with a house are usually classified as being a ‘material’ fact or ‘pertinent’ information.”
And even if such codes of ethics aren’t always enforced, most buyers appreciate the honesty of being told what they’re getting when they buy the house — whether that be a dangerous neighborhood or a leaky roof.
In the reverse, buyers who were not warned will often feel deceived and create bad publicity for the agent and the brokerage — as was the case with a family who picketed outside a Keller Williams branch after unwittingly buying what they called a former meth lab riddled with toxic drug debris.
“Any agent that is sitting on sale-breaking information absolutely needs to disclose it to all parties,” Pawlitzki said. “Anything less than that is a disservice to the buyer, seller, the public and all other agents.”