Use Good Judgment: A Regulatory Affairs Division Case Study

by Stephen L. Fussell, Chief Consumer Protection Officer

The Complaining Witness in this case was a seller who listed his property with a broker. The Respondent was a buyer agent who showed the seller’s property. The seller had a doorbell camera which records persons approaching his front door. The camera recorded the Respondent buyer agent as he and his buyer-clients approached the seller’s front door.  The buyers brought their dog on a leash, and, while the buyers were inside the property, the dog urinated on the floor. The buyer agent and the buyers left the property without cleaning up the mess.  There were three additional showing appointments that day.  The next agent who showed the property noticed the “accident,” cleaned up the mess, and reported it to the listing agent, who informed the seller. The seller was justifiably upset that the Respondent had allowed his clients to bring a dog into the property without authorization and then failed to clean up after the dog.

In a written response, the Respondent claimed he asked the buyers to leave their dog in the car, but they said it was too hot. This incident occurred in September, so it may have been too hot to leave the dog in the car.  The Respondent claimed the buyers assured him the dog was “well-trained.” The Respondent had other options, including rescheduling the showing or asking one client to stand outside with the dog while the other client viewed the interior of the home and then the clients could have traded places so that both clients could have viewed the interior of the house with the Respondent. Only with the seller’s permission should the Respondent have allowed his clients to take a dog into the seller’s home.  

When a seller lists his/her property with a broker, the seller understands that other real estate brokers will show the seller’s property to prospective buyers. The seller should be able to trust that the brokers who show the seller’s property will use good judgment and take reasonable steps to safeguard the seller’s property. When a broker is inside someone else’s home, the broker is generally responsible for what occurs.  Therefore, each broker who shows a listed property must exercise reasonable skill, care and diligence to ensure that no damage will be done to the seller’s property during a showing. When a broker leaves a listed property after a showing, the broker should make sure he/she leaves it in the same condition as before it was shown.

With regard to the above-referenced case, the Commission’s Regulatory Affairs Division issued a letter of caution to the buyer agent instructing him to exercise greater care in the future to safeguard the properties he shows to prospective buyers. We sent copies of the letter to the seller and to the buyer agent’s broker-in-charge.  Moreover, the Commission retains complaints in a permanent database for review and reconsideration in the event that a similar complaint is filed in the future.