The Legal Forum: How to Avoid Claims Responsibly & Eliminate Finger Pointing

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DON’T AGREE TO ASSUME DUTIES OR RESPONSIBILITIES THAT AREN’T YOURS.

A real estate agent always wants to come across as knowledgeable and helpful to his client. However, an agent can get into more problems by trying to be “too helpful”. A prime example is that an agent is ordinarily under no duty to conduct his or her own independent investigations concerning the condition or characteristics of the subject property. However, once he or she agrees to assume those duties, then they can be held responsible for the same.

EXAMPLE: An agent is assisting his client in locating property suitable to build a large residence on. The client notices pipeline easement stakes on the property, and asks the agent to determine the width of the easement (the available survey only states it is of an “undeterminable width”). The agent agrees to do so (rather than suggesting the client retain a separate surveyor), visits with the pipeline company, and informs the client they said it was 50 feet in width. However, the client later alleges that she told him it was only 25 feet and he only found out it was 50 feet after getting an angry letter from the pipeline company demanding he stop construction on the building intruding on their easement.

ANSWER: The agent should have diplomatically declined the client’s request that the agent determine the width of the easement, and inform the client that he needed to retain a surveyor of his own choice to look into the width of the easement (and then document the same). The agent is ordinarily not under a duty to conduct independent investigations, but since (as is here) she assumed that responsibility, she then assumed a duty that otherwise would not have been hers.

 

 

This blog/website is made available by CRES Insurance Services for educational purposes to give you general information and understanding of legal risks and insurance options, not to provide specific legal advice. This blog/website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state. Claims examples are for illustrative purposes only. Read your policy for a complete description of what is covered and excluded.

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