Technology has changed the real estate market, resulting in more efficient real estate transactions and timely exchange of information. However, some unanticipated consequences have surfaced. Surveillance systems can affect brokers and buyers alike.
Brokers Under Surveillance
Two licensing matters before the Colorado Real Estate Commission should alert brokers that they may be under surveillance when showing a home.
Complaint—Complaint #2016-1337(BB) implicated a broker who was caught on camera rifling through drawers and personal belongings in a home he was previewing.
Penalty—The Commission charged the broker with unworthy, incompetent practice, and sanctions included public censure, a $1,000 fine, license downgrade, and requiring the broker to be accompanied by another broker for any showing.
Complaint—Complaint #2016-2276(AH) involved a seller who installed an audio recording device in the home. In the recording, the broker is heard shuffling through drawers in the master bedroom. He was also accused of stealing hydrocodone pills from a sealed box in the garage.
Penalty—The Commission charged the broker with unworthy, incompetent practice, and dishonest dealing, and sanctions included public censure, revocation of the broker’s real estate license, and a $5,000 fine.
Buyers Under Surveillance
Brokers should advise buyers that they could be under surveillance anytime they enter a home. It follows that brokers should avoid conversations with buyers about the buyer’s valuation or buying strategy in or around the home. Such a discussion may tip off the seller to information he can use to undermine the buyer’s bargaining position.
Clients may have legal questions:
- Where do homeowners’ rights end and buyers’ reasonable expectations of privacy begin?
- Can sellers legally record buyers and their agents without disclosure?
- Can buyers video record the interior of a seller’s home?
Brokers are not licensed to practice law and must refer their clients with legal questions to an attorney. Giving a legal opinion, especially if incorrect, can not only result in a licensing violation, but also subject the broker to civil liability. (Learn more about the benefits and risks of home video surveillance when selling property.)
Brokers must be vigilant to protect their clients and themselves from home sellers in this age of surveillance. Thanks to technological advances and creative applications, the next home you show may have walls with ears and ceilings with eyes. Broker beware.
If you are a CRES client and have concerns about an issue with surveillance during showings, report it to the CRES ClaimPrevent® Hotline. The hotline is available to our clients 7 days a week to help with any issues that put you at risk.
How do your clients feel about in-home surveillance?
Jim Meseck, Tracy Zuckett, Rachelle Veikune of White & Steele, P.C.