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"Staying Out of Jail" - ActiveRain Community Guidelines Re-Visited

Real Estate Agent with Fathom Realty West Sound WA State 52404

Okay, so pour yourself a strong cup of Java, pull up your iTunes, and enjoy the next installment of the ActiveRain Community Guidelines 'EXPANDED' version!

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This next guideline must've been inserted by our corporate lawyers. It sounds too much like one of those 'fine print' disclaimers...

  • Do not violate any laws of your local jurisdiction. This includes all Fair Housing related laws.

Seems pretty straight-forward and obvious, right? One would think so. But ya know, as I observe our members conversing with one another, whether through their blog posts, or commenting on other member's articles, sometimes people say the 'darndest' things!

One area that tends to annoy me is in our "Q&A" Feature (it's one of the tabs right up above there).

In the past, when I've accessed this feature, I've gone straight to my home State of Washington, for the purposes of answering any questions left there by consumers. However, many times when I've done this, I find that the answers have already been provided by a fellow member from another State!

Now if it's a question that's general in nature, like "Who brews the strongest cup of coffee?" or "What's the best thing to use for crab bait?," then no problemo. Anyone can feel free to pipe in.

But if it's a specific real estate related question, why would you want to expose yourself to the potential liability of speaking 'out-of-turn?' I mean, seriously, we all have enough liability as it is, right?

For me, the basic rule of thumb is plain as rain - "If you're not licensed in a particular State, or you don't practice/offer services in that State, don't answer the question!" As basic as the question may seem, or regardless of how much you genuinely want to help out, don't answer.

Remember, that whatever you write/publish on the Internet can or will be used against you in a court of law!

And additionally, ALWAYS keep in mind the Federally protected classes, and not to use any words/language in your posts or comments that could be perceived as being discriminatory.

 ~ Now get out there and sell something!!! ~

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Rich Jacobson is a REALTOR® and licensed Broker with Fathom Realty. He's a Crab Hunter, Clam Digger, and Oyster Shucker, skilffuly vanquishing anything in a shell! He is the Social Media Evangelist for Life on the Kitsap Peninsula & The Western Puget Sound in scenic WA State.

Bob Edwards
Coldwell Banker- The Real Estate Group, Inc. - Appleton, WI
Fox Cities Real Estate Hotline, SFR- Appleton, WI
Very good point Rich, I too have read a few posts that make me quiver. As licensed agents it's our obligation to be mindful of what we say and do in public and you can't get much more public than posts on the world wide web.  
Mar 28, 2008 03:34 AM
Patty Carroll
Vancouver, WA

Hi fellow Washingtonian!  We are in Vancouver, WA. We just heard an interesting statistic last week, 1 in 56 in California had a Real Estate license in 2007. So with this in mind there maybe some agents out there that mean well but do not fully understand how they are putting themselves at risk. Thanks for taking the time to remind us all.

Patty & Scott Carroll - RE/MAX Equity Group


Mar 28, 2008 03:35 AM
Fran Gaspari
Patriot Land Transfer, Inc. - Limerick, PA
"The Title Man" - Title Insurance - PA & NJ


Your post makes a lot of sense, and courteously too!!! When I was new on AR, I thrived on the Q&A sections...but then I saw how wide open we were leaving ourselves in expressing opinions we were not entitled to express...it down right scared me away!!! Thanks for the reminder,   Fran

Mar 28, 2008 03:35 AM
Lissa Uder
RE/MAX Next Generation, LLC - Lebanon, MO
Your Lebanon MO Real Estate Agent
Another great reminder. You have such a polite way of getting your point across. I have read through some of the Q&A section on a few occasions and the word that came to mind several time was "yikes". I don't look at it much anymore. Of course, sometimes I talk (type) too much also. Now, I have a question...Who brews the strongest cup of coffee? I could use another.
Mar 28, 2008 03:46 AM
Bill Gassett
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Hopkinton, MA
Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate
I have noticed a lot of this in other forums as well. It blows me away when a Realtor is commenting on laws in other States that are no where near them. It is hard enough to know everything in your own state.
Mar 28, 2008 03:48 AM
Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland
I see that on Trulia regularly.  State laws vary dramatically, even just across a river.
Mar 28, 2008 03:50 AM
Celeste "SALLY" Cheeseman
Liberty Homes - Mililani, HI

I have long since gone over there to look what's going on ...just for that fact. It is STILL going on in Hawaii....there are answers on specific HAWAII land questions that another state agent is answering!!!!  How can that person say the majority of land is owned by a specific entitity!  (you see why I don't go there?  It really is frustrating to have these know it alls give wrong info!)  There are .....agents from other states putting in "let me refer you to an agent in Hawaii" in the question section. I think that should be done away with. Let the consumer ask questions to an appropriate agent in their state instead of getting half a....  answers and junk.  There's even crap like ...how do I insert my picture and etc. etc.


Rich...what can be done about this?  This is soooo not what it was intended for.

Mar 28, 2008 04:00 AM
Jo Olson
HOMEFRONT Realty - Kettle Falls, WA
Retired - HOMEFRONT Realty @ LAKE Roosevelt
When I first joined AR I thought how very weird that someone from another state would be answering in MY state! I always click on just WA and see if I can help and have come across this and thought not only is it very scary for liability issues but I think its rude. I have seen this on other sites as well. Another question I always have "how many agents does it take to tell a seller....." Self promotion gets the best of us some times!
Mar 28, 2008 07:24 AM
Monika McGillicuddy
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Verani Realty - Hampstead, NH
Southern NH & the Seacoast Area
Great advice Rich, now lets hope the bloggers that need that advice... heed it.
Mar 28, 2008 08:22 AM
Sara Homan
Coldwell Banker Ellison Realty 352-209-4044 - Ocala, FL
Realtor, Homes, Farms & 55+


That was excellent!  I can almost here you talk by the way you write, no nonsense!!!  I have to constantly remind myself when I sit down to write a blog that I am speaking to a wide range of people, so read it over and make sure you are saying things that the GP won't get upset with.

Mar 28, 2008 08:32 AM
Susan Mangigian
RE/MAX Preferred - West Chester, PA
Chester & Delaware County Homes, Delaware and Ches
Great advice!!  As for who brews the strongest coffee... no idea.  I'm a tea person so I am therefore not qualified to answer (smile).
Mar 28, 2008 10:37 AM
Midori Miller
Talk 2 Midori, LLC - Daytona Beach, FL
Online Marketing For Real Estate Professionals
Rich-not sure why anyone would bother to do this especially since real estate is local.  I have seen it in several places..
Mar 28, 2008 11:27 AM
Suzanne Sands
Pavao Real Estate - Somerset, MA
Somerset MA Real Estate

Hi Rich,

I hope the ones who need to see this do, I always wondered why...btw, you sould like a Broker when you tell us what to do! ;)

Mar 28, 2008 11:38 AM
Billnulls Blog Florida Realty Professional
Charles Rutenberg Realty - Clearwater, FL
Rich - another good reminder for all of us! thanks!
Mar 31, 2008 06:13 AM
April Hayden-Munson
Brookfield, WI
Brookfield Wisconsin Real Estate
Nice Post - hoping that people who need to read this actually do.... well, in my experience the ones who need to change don't bother to read posts like this.  In the Q&A section, I have written "why would an agent who doesn't know my state's laws answer???? - I have even sent them an email.  Bad advice is the last thing a consumer needs!! I would never answer for another area of the country or world, it's just askin for trouble!
Mar 31, 2008 07:27 AM
Vickie McCartney
Maverick Realty - Owensboro, KY
Broker, Real Estate Agent Owensboro KY
Well Rich, I did not even know we had a question and answer area here!  LOL  I am amazed at how much I am missing that is offered in here.
Mar 31, 2008 08:24 AM
Jason Rose
123 ConEd LLC -- Michigan real estate continuing education - Farmington Hills, MI

Good morning, Rich.  Being an attorney myself, I tend to agree with you that the genesis for your great posting might have come from your corporate attorneys.  That said, it was a great idea for you to post this to remind everyone of the restrictions required by the Fair Housing Act.  Moreover, and with respect to Active Rain itself, this posting should help it defend itself on the oft chance it ever gets sued by someone with an allegation of violations of the Fair Housing Act. Any forum where properties can be listed for sale is a potential target for advertising-related Fair Housing Act violations (e.g., Craigslist got sued), and this posting makes clear that Active Rain does not permit any advertising that is contrary to the law.

It was also a great reminder that laws vary state-to-state and city-to-city, and what might be permissible in one part of the country might be illegal in another part.  People really do need to be careful in providing legal advice in their comments if they are not familiar with the laws of the locale at issue.  They may unwittingly be giving the wrong advice and stir up some trouble.


Feb 11, 2009 12:38 AM
Rich Jacobson
Fathom Realty West Sound - Poulsbo, WA
Your Kitsap County WA Real Estate Broker

Jason:  Our Community Guidelines are pretty straight-forward and were designed to protect both our members and our network from potential difficulties, legal or otherwise.

Feb 11, 2009 03:12 AM
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

I couldn't agree with you more on this subject.  Out of state, just don't go there.  I see that happening all the time and it makes my hair stand on end.  Yes, general, non-real estate topics, sure answer away.  

Mar 17, 2014 08:23 AM
Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets
Big Block Realty 858.232.8722 - La Jolla, CA
CEO of Vision Drive Realty - Coastal San Diego

I adhere to CA laws and do not participate in legal advice and caution folks that all my posts are from a CA REALTOR's perspective.

Aug 04, 2020 09:25 PM