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Code of Ethics Case Studies

Case #2-3: Obligation to Disclose Defects

Seller A came to REALTOR® B's office explaining that his company was transferring him to another city and he wished to sell his home. In executing the listing contract, Seller A specified that the house had hardwood floors throughout and that the selling price would include the shutters and draperies that had been custom made for the house. Seller A said that he would like to continue to occupy the house for 90 days while his wife looked for another home at his new location, and agreed that REALTOR® B could show the house during this time without making a special appointment for each visit. Accordingly, REALTOR® B advertised the house, showed it to a number of prospective buyers, and obtained a purchase contract from Buyer C. Settlement was completed and at the expiration of the 90-day period from the date of listing, Seller A moved out and Buyer C moved in.

On the day that Buyer C moved in, seeing the house for the first time in its unfurnished condition, he quickly observed that hardwood flooring existed only on the outer rim of the floor in each room that had been visible beyond the edges of rugs when he inspected the house, and that the areas that had been previously covered by rugs in each room were of subflooring material. He complained that REALTOR® B, the listing broker, had misrepresented the house in his advertisements and in the description included in his listing form, which had specified "hardwood floors throughout." Buyer C complained to REALTOR® B, who immediately contacted Seller A. REALTOR® B pointed out that the house had been fully furnished when it was listed and Seller A had said that the house had hardwood floors throughout. Seller A acknowledged that he had so described the floors, but said the error was inadvertent since he had lived in the house for ten years since it had been custom built for him. He explained that in discussing the plans and specifications with the contractor who had built the house, the contractor had pointed out various methods of reducing construction costs, including limiting the use of hardwood flooring to the outer rim of each room's floor. Since Seller A had planned to use rugs in each room, he had agreed, and after ten years of living in the house with the subflooring covered by rugs, he had "simply forgotten about it."

REALTOR® B explained, however, that Seller A's description, which he had accepted, had resulted in misrepresentation to the buyer. "But it's a small point," said Seller A. "He'll probably use rugs too, so it really doesn't make any difference." After further pressure from REALTOR® B for some kind of adjustment for Buyer C, Seller A concluded, "It was an honest mistake. It's not important. I'm not going to do anything about it. If Buyer C thinks this is a serious matter, let him sue me."

REALTOR® B explained Seller A's attitude to Buyer C, saying that he regretted it very much, but under the circumstances could do nothing more about it. It was at this point that Buyer C filed a complaint with REALTOR® B's Board.

Based on your understanding of the Code of Ethics Article 2, what do you think the hearing panel concluded? Show Answer


 
 
 
 
 
 




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