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Code of Ethics Case Studies

Case #2-16: Falsification of Credit Information

REALTOR® A, a property manager had an agreement to manage Owner O's 24 unit apartment building. During the course of their negotiations, Owner O had repeatedly emphasized that REALTOR A was expected to use great care in screening the financial backgrounds of potential tenants.

Several months later, REALTOR® A received an application for a lease from prospective Tenant T. Following his usual procedure, REALTOR® A obtained a credit report that indicated that Tenant T had a generally satisfactory credit history but a concluding paragraph noted that Tenant T was several months in arrears on accounts with local department stores. REALTOR® A, anxious to rent the vacant apartment but recognizing that his management agreement with Owner O precluded rentals to individuals with questionable credit histories, used correction fluid to eradicate the reference to the delinquent accounts. Tenant T made a security deposit equal to one month's rent, signed a one year lease, and moved into the apartment.

Early the following month, REALTOR® A noted that Tenant T had not mailed his rent check. A call to Tenant T's apartment revealed that his phone had been disconnected. REALTOR® A drove to the property, rang Tenant T's bell and, getting no response, let himself into Tenant T's apartment with a master key. It became quickly apparent that extensive damage had been done to the apartment since Tenant T had taken possession. Additional phone calls made it clear that Tenant T had moved out of state leaving no forwarding address and that Tenant T's security deposit would only cover a small part of the damage. Owner O, realizing that he would have to pay for most of the repairs, instructed his attorney to try to locate Tenant T. The attorney, in turn, asked REALTOR® A to provide all materials concerning Tenant T. REALTOR® A instructed his office manager to deliver the file on Tenant T to the attorney's office.

The attorney, in reviewing the documents, noted that an item had been eradicated from the credit report. Obtaining a duplicate copy from the local credit bureau, it became clear that the report in REALTOR® A's file had been altered. The attorney shared this information with his client, Owner O, who filed a complaint against REALTOR® A alleging that Article 2 had been violated.

At the hearing, REALTOR® A admitted that he had altered the credit report but defended his action on the basis that Tenant T's credit history had been generally satisfactory except for the delinquent department store accounts. Further, REALTOR® A indicated that in his opinion Owner O's insistence that any potential tenant have an unblemished credit history was unwarranted, made REALTOR® A's role in identifying potential tenants needlessly difficult, and could ultimately result in a large number of vacancies, a result not in Owner O's best interest.

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