The following article was published in NJ.com on June 19th and we thought it was interesting enough to share.
One thing is certain, we as a NJ Title Insurance company should start putting an an extra title exception on all title insurance policies. This should be a fun case to follow although not sure how successful the plaintiffs can be at lease on the title front. Yikes.
NJ.com June 19th
The first frightening letter came three days after the couple purchased the township home in June 2014 for $1.3 million, a “dream” house for themselves and their children.
“Why are you here? I will find out,” read part of the letter, that was mysteriously sent by somebody identifying himself as “The Watcher.”
“My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time,” the letter states, according to a lawsuit the couple filed in Superior Court in Elizabeth earlier this month.
The letters continued, becoming increasingly disturbing, according to the suit in which the couple says the prior owners were aware of “The Watcher.” Just days before the closing, on May 24, 2014, the previous homeowners received a letter from him, but never disclosed that information, according to the suit.
So distressing were the messages that the new owners never moved into their dream home and are now trying to sell it without success because potential buyers are scared off after hearing of the messages, the suit states.
The couple is suing the prior owners, claiming they deliberately withheld knowledge of “The Watcher” over fears of losing the house sale. The couple is also suing the Chicago Title Insurance Company, and “The Watcher,” though no real name or address is mentioned for him.
According to the court papers, “The Watcher” claims the right of possession, or ownership, or control of the house. In the letters, he refers to the prior owners by name and identifies the house by street address. The names of the current and the previous owners are being withheld by NJ Advance Media, along with the address of the house, for safety reasons.
“I am The Watcher and have been in control of (the house) for the better part of two decades now,” one letter is quoted as saying.
Jack Feinstein, a lawyer and director of the Rutgers Civil Justice Clinic at Rutgers Law School in Newark, said the sellers are required to disclose latent defects in the house, that involves such issues and termite infestation. This kind of claim, about a possible stalker, is something completely different, said Feinstein who has 40 years of experience in real estate law.
To make a case, the plaintiff would have to show how long the prior owners had known about the letters, and whether the messages appeared to be credible and could be taken as a serious threat, Feinstein said.
Charles Sullivan, a law professor at Seton Hall Law School, said some states have laws requiring the disclosure of tragic incidents that occurred in a house such as murders.
“There’s a duty on the part of the seller to disclose to the buyer any defect that would impact the marketability of a property,” Sullivan said about laws in those other states.
But New Jersey does not have such laws, he said. “There probably would not be a duty to disclose this,” Sullivan said referring to the letters in the Westfield case.
The first letter by “The Watcher” was received June 5, 2014, three days after the closing, included the statement “Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested? Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them to me. I asked the (prior owners) to bring me young blood.”
The letter writer recalls when he “ran from room to room imagining the life with the rich occupants there.”
“And now I watch and wait for the day when they (sp) young blood will be mine again,” one letter read.
A subsequent letter received June 18, 2014, contained references of what might be in the house and veiled threats.
“Have they found what is in the walls yet? In time they will. I am pleased to know your names and the names now of the young blood you have brought to me,” the letter reads.
“Will the young bloods play in the basement. Who has the rooms facing the street? I’ll know as soon as you move in. It will help me to know who is in which bedroom then I can plan better,” it says.
“All the windows and door in (the house) allow me to watch you and track you as you move through the house,” it continues.
“I am in charge of (the house).”
Lee Levitt, the Parsippany attorney who filed the lawsuit for the current owners, did not return calls seeking a comment.