Lockbox Security Violations?
A seller called with a question regarding access to the lockbox system. The seller complained about a recent experience with 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 REALTORо card to gain access to the property." The seller felt that this was inappropriate and wanted to know if this was permissible under our rules.
The answer to this question may surprise many REALTORS®, but this is a violation of our lockbox security rules.
The rules state the the Card Holder will be granted a revocable license to use the SentriCard 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 User Agreement.
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 keys (keys used by REALTORS® to the situations when the holder is 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 is limited to the use of more restricted SentriCards which require a Call Before Showing Code. 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 but 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, this is where we have been told 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 a CBS Code. This key requires a code that is unique to each lockbox. In order to obtain the CBS code, the inspector must contact the listing agent and ask for the code. This system provides a mechanism that ensures the listing agent maintains control over the 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 him or her into the property.
Additionally, limiting access for non-REALTORS® significantly reduces the legal liability of the listing agents and the firms that use the lockbox system to provide access to the property. While the lure of convenience may be enticing, with issues of security it is more prudent to take reasonable steps to protect our agents, their clients and the reputation of our industry.