Sometimes the past is one of the best learning tools around! Use the following Real-Life Errors & Omissions Claim Situation involving an agent taking on what should have been the buyers’ due diligence to avoid a similar legal showdown happening to you in your everyday real estate career. And be sure to have a good Real Estate E&O Insurance policy in place to protect you in case you find yourself in the middle of a court battle over negligence.
A Real Estate agent was working with prospective buyers who were searching for a residential property for their growing family. The agent showed them several properties before they decided to submit an offer on a home that recently underwent a complete renovation, including a two-room addition.
The renovation was completed by an unlicensed contractor who failed to obtain the necessary building permits. Moreover, the property was located in a state that did not require the owners to complete a seller’s property disclosure statement, leaving the buyers to determine whether any defective conditions existed through the engagement of experts.
Since the buyers were busy with their careers and the school activities of their children, the agent volunteered to do the due diligence for the buyers. This included hiring a home inspector and termite inspector. In accepting the agent’s offer, the buyers assumed that he would also research whether or not the project was “legal.”
Approximately five months after moving into the property, the buyers received a letter from the city informing them that the renovations were completed without the required permits. The ensuing building inspection discovered that the addition did not conform to the building codes since it lacked a load-bearing wall. The buyers then sued the sellers,
the listing agent, the home inspector, and their buyers’ agent for failing to either disclose or detect the property’s nonconformance. The parties ultimately resolved the litigation after the defendants agreed to pay for the remediation and obtain the certificate of occupancy.
An agent should never volunteer to take on the due diligence for buyers by ordering or attending inspections on their behalf. If there’s any defective condition with the property, the agent will likely be sued for negligently referring the inspectors while putting themselves in the position where a jury could determine that they fraudulently induced the buyers into the purchase. Sound risk management on the part of an agent is to have the buyers select the inspectors and not become actively involved in the conversation between the buyers and the inspector. Although it is best to be present during the inspection should the client seek assistance, an agent should not be interpreting an inspector’s findings or recommendations. The agent may later be held accountable for failing to address something pointed out by the inspector. Lastly, always recommend that the buyers contact the controlling authority for conformance inquiries.
Do you have a similar story involving negligence, failure to disclose, or nonconforming renovations to share with us? Send us your learning experience or just let us know what you think about this one! Just leave a reply below!
If you have any questions about Pearl’s Errors & Omissions Insurance for real estate professionals, give us a call at 800.447.4982—whether you’re looking for a new E&O policy or have questions about your current one. We’d love to hear from you!
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