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Case #1-7: Obligation to Protect Client’s Interests

Published Monday, January 5, 2015

The following Case Study was produced by the Professional Standards Committee of the National Association of REALTORS®

Originally Case #7-8. Reaffirmed May, 1988. Transferred to Article 1 November, 1994. Revised November, 2001.

Client A, an army officer, was transferred to a new duty station and listed his home for sale with REALTOR® B as the exclusive agent. He moved to his new station with the understanding that REALTOR® B, as the listing broker, would obtain a buyer as soon as possible. After six weeks, during which no word had come from REALTOR® B, the client made a weekend visit back to his former community to inspect his property. He learned that REALTOR® B had advertised the house: "Vacant—Owner transferred," and found an "open" sign on the house but no representative present.

Upon inquiry, Client A found that REALTOR® B never had a representative at the property but continually kept an "open" sign in the yard. Client A discovered that the key was kept in a combination lockbox, and when REALTOR® B received calls from potential purchasers about the property, he simply gave callers the address, advised that the key was in the lockbox, gave them the combination, and told them to look through the house by themselves and to call him back if they needed other information or wanted to make an offer.

Client A filed a complaint with the Board of REALTORS® detailing these facts, and charging REALTOR® B with failure to protect and promote a client's interests by leaving Client A's property open to vandalism, and by not making appropriate efforts to obtain a buyer.
REALTOR® B's defense during the hearing was that his advertising of the property was evidence of his effort to sell it. He stated, without being specific, that leaving keys to vacant listed property in lockboxes and advising callers to inspect property on their own was a "common local practice."

The Hearing Panel concluded that REALTOR® B was in violation of Article 1 of the Code of Ethics because he had failed to act in a professional manner consistent with his obligations to protect and promote the interests of his client.

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