Ask an attorney

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  • | 12:00 p.m. October 9, 2008
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Some legal questions with answers provided by the Florida Association of Realtors:

Q. I’m a real estate licensee and I’d like to place a “For Sale by Owner” sign in my front yard to attract potential buyers and other real estate licensees. I’m not actually planning to sell my house; I just want to market my real estate services to anyone who sees my FSBO sign and calls me. Is this allowed?

A. No. From a licensing law perspective, Section 475.25(1)(c), Florida Statutes, warns that licensees must not “advertise any property or services in a manner which is fraudulent, false, deceptive, or misleading in form or content,” and Rule 61J2-10.025, Florida Administrative Code, echoes this point. The Florida Real Estate Commission (FREC) may also be able to assert that this type of activity is dishonest dealing under Section 475.25(1)(b).

Enticing potential buyers and other real estate licensees to call about your house, which you have no intention of selling, in an attempt to market your services is a violation of Article 12 of the Realtor Code of Ethics, promulgated by the National Association of Realtors and adopted by the Florida Association of Realtors. Article 12 advises, in part, “Realtors shall be careful at all times to present a true picture in their advertising and representations to the public.”

Q. I’m a Realtor representing a buyer as a single agent who’s interested in a property listed with another agent. I submitted my buyer’s offer to the listing agent several days ago; however, I’m concerned that he hasn’t presented the offer to the seller. I’ve been unsuccessful in reaching the listing agent. May I contact the seller directly?

A. No. Pursuant to Article 16 of the Code of Ethics, a Realtor working as a buyer’s agent may communicate with the seller only through the listing office, unless he or she has permission from the listing agent to communicate with the seller directly. It’s recommended that the buyer’s agent obtain permission from the listing agent or broker in writing.

Q. I’m a sales associate listing my own property for sale with the brokerage where I have my real estate license. Must I disclose my license status to prospective buyers and provide an agency disclosure?

A. You must disclose your license status to prospective buyers, in writing, prior to the signing of any contract, when selling your own property or when you have any ownership interest in property, as per the Realtor Code of Ethics, Article 4, to which the National Association of Realtors requires you to adhere.

Because you’re acting in your licensed capacity in selling this property, you must comply with the agency disclosure requirements under Section 475.278, Florida Statutes. Thus, you may need to provide a prospective buyer with the No Brokerage Relationship Disclosure, per Section 475.278, Florida Statutes, if the party isn’t represented. Florida law requires a real estate licensee who has no brokerage relationship with a potential seller or buyer to disclose his or her duty to the seller and the buyer. The real estate licensee disclosure requirements apply to all residential sales unless an exemption applies, per Section 475.278(5)(b)(2), Florida Statutes.

Q. May I serve a glass of wine to clients over age 21 who visit my office, similar to when a client visits an upscale hair salon?

A. There’s no law prohibiting this activity; however, it’s not recommended for a number of reasons, including but not limited to premises liability issues and licensing law problems. For example, what happens if the client becomes tipsy at your office and is injured or gets behind the wheel of a car and causes an accident?

Moreover, what if the client enters into an exclusive representation agreement with you, agrees to accept your offer to list his or her property or decides to make an offer to purchase someone else’s property and later regrets the decision and accuses you of serving wine in an effort to influence the outcome? All of these scenarios could open the door to both personal and Florida Real Estate Commission liability.

Q. I’m a broker who was out of the office when a prospective buyer called me to see a home that is listed with another real estate brokerage company. This buyer wants to see the property immediately and wants me to represent him as a single agent. If I don’t have time to go back to the office to get the single agent relationship disclosure form, may I show the buyer the house and provide him with the single agent relationship disclosure form later?

A. No. Section 475.278(3)(b)1, Florida Statutes, provides that a written single agent relationship disclosure “must be made before, or at the time of, entering into a listing agreement or an agreement for representation or before the showing of property, whichever occurs first.”



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