Legal Blog - Compensation and Commission


Regarding access to the lockbox system

Sep 30, 2016


Question: Regarding access to the lockbox system?

A seller called with a question regarding access to the lockbox system. The seller complained about a recent experience involving the home inspection of her property. 

She arrived at her property before the inspection was completed. The buyer’s agent was not present when she arrived. Only the buyers and the home inspector were in the property. This caused the seller a great deal of concern. When she asked how the buyers had gotten into the property, the home inspector responded, “I also have a real estate license in addition to my home inspection practice. I am affiliated with another real estate company (one unrelated to the listing or selling firm), so I just used my own SentriCard® key to gain access to the property.” The seller believed that this was inappropriate and wanted to know if this was permissible under our rules.

Answer. The answer to this question will surprise many Realtors®, but this is a violation of our lockbox security rules. 

Article II, Section 3 (License to Use) of the Regional Rules and Regulations for SentriLock Lockbox System reads as follows:

Upon execution of the “User Agreement” Holder will be granted a personal, revocable, non-exclusive and non-transferable license to use the SentriCard® and Lockbox in connection with the Holder’s normal and customary activities while acting as a real estate agent or appraiser on the terms and conditions set forth in the referenced SentriLock User Agreement. Each Association’s User Agreement shall require the Holder to comply with these Regional Rules and Regulations. 

This reference was intentional. The Realtors® who drafted the lockbox rules believed very strongly that it was necessary to limit the use of full access cards (cards used by Realtors®) to the situations in which the holder was practicing real estate as defined by state law. Anyone interested in performing home inspections, pest inspections or other services that are outside the practice of real estate are limited to the use of Call-Before-Showing (CBS) cards. This includes Realtors® who operate other businesses such as home inspection, pest inspection/remediation or other ancillary services that do not require a real estate license.

The foundation of this policy is that sellers have agreed to allow real estate licensees to have liberal access to the property. However, sellers expect that all other professionals related to a real estate transaction will be limited to access that is under the control or supervision of the agents. This ensures that Realtors® remain central to the real estate transaction and informed about all aspects of the transaction. In the feedback we have received from listing agents and sellers, we have been told that this is where the focus should remain.

If a home inspector or other service provider is an Affiliate member of NVAR, he or she can receive limited access to the lockbox system with an Affiliate card. The Affiliate card requires a code that is unique to each card holder. In order to obtain the CBS code, the inspector must contact the listing agent and ask for the code. This system provides a mechanism to ensure that the listing agent maintains control over access to the listing. The listing agent has the option of providing the CBS code for the lockbox to the Affiliate member, or requiring that the Affiliate wait until the listing agent can be present to allow access to a property. 

Each card holder has a specific CBS code. When you are assigned a SentriCard®, you are provided with a CBS code for any lockbox that you, as the card holder, would purchase. In the event that you forget the code, you may contact the NVAR Membership Department at 703.207.3256. If you provide our staff with your card serial number, they can look up the lockbox and provide you with the correct code. 

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