COVID-19 Opening the Door for Potential Lawsuits
“As seen in the Real Estate Reality Column in the San Leandro Times & Castro Valley Forum, written by Carl Medford”
When I bought my first California home, the contract was one page. Today the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) residential contract is ten pages with six pages of disclosures tacked on. Additionally, sellers are required to provide over seventy pages of disclosures.
While the witticism is, “Every paragraph in the contract and disclosures has been added as the result of a lawsuit,” it is no laughing matter. Litigation between a buyer and seller is never a desirable outcome and primary amongst the functions of Realtors is to ensure transactions close without the need to meet again in court. In fact, the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the National Association of REALTORS® includes the statement: “When representing a buyer, seller, landlord, tenant, or other client as an agent, REALTORS® pledge themselves to protect and promote the interests of their client.”
It goes without saying that there are those in the legal profession who opportunistically seek to file lawsuits on behalf of those whom they perceive have been harmed in some way. While barratry per se is illegal, “ambulance chasers,” as their nickname indicates, seek opportunities in disasters and other circumstances that have caused personal harm. COVID-19 is no exception and the lawsuits have already started pouring in.
With the potential of legal action in mind, C.A.R. has crafted extensive documentation designed to protect both buyers and sellers in the midst of this pandemic. It is critical that both buyers and sellers follow the rules as outlined in the COVID-19 disclosures and do not attempt to take shortcuts or circumvent the necessary steps.
For those looking to sell their homes, an addendum to the listing agreement has been added that delineates the level of access a seller is willing to provide during the crisis and necessary steps required to adhere to the California Departments of Public Health (CDPH) and Industrial Relations (Cal/OSHA) COVID-19 Directives for showing properties.
There is also a new 8-page CORONAVIRUS PROPERTY ENTRY ADVISORY AND DECLARATION (PEAD) that must be signed by buyers, sellers and both sets of agents prior to allowing access to any home for sale. It includes Real Estate Best Practices Guidelines and Prevention Plan for Showings During COVID-19 – Stage 2 Expansion.
While no one likes filling out forms, it is important to follow C.A.R. rules. At the end of the day, the goal is simple: stay healthy and out of court.
Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Keller Williams Realty and a licensed general contractor. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association.