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Home Showing Missteps - Who Foots the Bill?

Sep 27, 2016

Real Estate Laws

Home Showing Missteps: Who Foots the Bill?

Question: If an agent is representing a buyer, and something breaks at a property while the agent is showing it, who is responsible for the damage?

Answer: You may have heard a version of the following hypothetical scenario: buyer’s agent arrives at a property to show to client; the front door sticks when he tries to open it. Thinking that the weather may have caused the wooden door to swell, the agent pushes harder, and the door jamb is damaged. Clearly this was an accident -- the agent did not mean to break the door jamb, and yet there is property damage. Who is responsible for fixing it?

There are two issues for the buyer’s agent to consider in this situation. The first is that the SentriLock® Rules require agents to take care when entering a property using a SentriCard® and they must leave the property in the same condition in which it was found. This means that if someone encounters a door that does not open easily, no one should use force to open it. Damaging property may be a violation of SentriLock® Rules. However, SentriLock® Rules do not offer a method for the seller to obtain money from an agent who damaged the property.

The second issue is that there may be legal liability if a court finds that the agent’s actions were negligent. There are two situations in which the agent would not be found liable. The first is if the seller and/or the listing agent knew the door sometimes stuck and included in the MLS showing instructions language such as, “Front door sticks, just push on it.” By following such instructions issued by the seller, the agent would not likely be found negligent. The second scenario in which the agent would not be found liable is if the seller and/or the listing agent knew that the door jamb was broken, or on the verge of breaking. In this situation, a court is not likely to find the agent legally liable for the damage.

Keep in mind that while a court may not hold the agent legally liable for the damage, he could still be found in violation of the SentriLock® Rules for not leaving the property in the same condition in which he found it. Depending on the circumstances and the cost of the repair, it may be a good business decision for the agent to offer to repair the damage. Not only will this prevent a potential lawsuit or ethics case, it could build goodwill for future transactions with that seller and also within the community.
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