Open House Acountability

Industry Observer

In the United States, our legal system holds landowners responsible for ensuring the premises are safe for those who are invited onto their properties. According to Los Angeles personal injury attorney Brian Panish, property owners have an ethical and legal duty to make sure their premises are free of avoidable dangers. 


This duty includes the knowing and maintenance of reasonably discoverable dangerous conditions. Prospective buyers responding to an open house ad are protected by this law.


Let's take a look at the broker's potential liability when hosting an open house.


Know the documents.


The language of the listing agreement is paramount, and will inform all on the respective responsibilities of agent and homeowner.


In the past, the courts required pretty solid evidence of negligence on the broker's behalf if a premise accident were to occur during an open house.


Be warned, broker responsibility has greatly increased.


Courts are now classifying real estate brokers as “professors” in property trade and are far more often holding brokers accountable for failure in conducting an inspection of premises when preparing for an open house. This failure to recognize and notify partys visiting can result in the brokers being held jointly responsible with the landowner for not warning visitors of any potentially dangerous conditions on the premises.


A thorough real estate professional hosting an open house for prospective purchasers or tenants will:

·      Discover conditions involving an unreasonable risk of injury or harm

·      Take steps to make the condition reasonably safe

·      Give adequate warning to avoid harm


Basically, its what’s preventable.


Preventable in the legal world, meaning foreseeable: those responsible should have realized the potential dangers and sought either to warn the public or to remove the danger.


General Property Inspection


While it is not required by law to submit a general property inspection, a broker and landowner are highly recommended to conduct one. This is an examination of a real estate property's condition. A qualified home inspector can assess the condition of a property's roof, foundation, heating and cooling systems, plumbing, electrical work, water and sewage, and some fire and safety issues etc.


The message is clear: practitioners and homeowners should think about and prepare for visitor safety before an open house or they may be tied up legally and financially.


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