Have you ever shown a property and walked into an unexpected situation? Many brokers have no idea how they might respond in an emergency until they are faced with one. This article is designed to help you consider scenarios that could occur and be prepared in advance with a proper response. What would you do if you discovered smoke? What about a burst pipe where water could potentially flood throughout the house? In these situations it is likely that you would call for help immediately, whether 911 or the listing agent/property owner or someone who could address the issue. But what would you do if you encountered a person in the property, legally or not, who may be in some sort of distress? Would you leave and go to the next property? Would you call for help, or attempt to notify the listing agent or owner?
Discovering People in Unknown Condition/Situations
There have been many instances of licensees entering properties for business purposes and unexpectedly discovering someone is there. Some situations are simple mistakes, confused timing of showings, forgotten appointments. Others are more alarming, like someone who has broken into a vacant home and is living there. What if you encounter someone who is unresponsive, and you are not clear about if they are in distress or not?
Action you can take:
Discovering Property in Danger
If you enter a property and discover a situation damaging/affecting the property, like a fire or flood, remember that you have a duty to protect the seller’s property while showing it. It is not advisable to walk away and do nothing. At a minimum a broker must take reasonable steps to contact the listing agent or owner and report the issue. Is there an affirmative duty to also contact emergency services? Not specifically by law, but an agent’s duty to safeguard and protect the property may require you to do so.
Action you can take:
Liability Concerns of Brokers
Brokers often express concern that if they encounter a person in distress, they don’t have the proper training or duty to render aid, or that they might be liable under North Carolina law. In fact, North Carolina law provides in NCGS § 90-21.14 that any person who renders first aid or emergency treatment to a person who is unconscious, ill, or injured, and receives no compensation for that assistance, “shall not be liable for damages for injuries alleged to have been sustained by the person or for damages for the death of the person alleged to have occurred by reason of an act or omission in the rendering of the treatment unless it is established that the injuries were or the death was caused by gross negligence, wanton conduct, or intentional wrongdoing on the part of the person rendering the treatment.”