A potential buyer is going to an open house, walking from room to room, and slips and falls. Who is responsible? Can the real estate agent be sued? Open houses are one of the best ways to promote a home, but accidents can and do happen during these events.
Potential homebuyers are able to walk around the home, take a peek into every room and ask questions to owners and agents.
But when injury occurs, there’s always a question of liability.
Can the Agent Be Sued?
Previous lawsuits, specifically Hart v. Centry 21, show that real estate agents can be sued, but that doesn’t mean that the judge will rule in favor of the plaintiff. In this particular case, it was found that the agent was responsible for cleaning the home.
Home inspection was not the agent’s responsibility, and this is determined by the contract between the agent and the seller.
But let’s assume that the agent knew of a hole in the floor and failed to tell anyone viewing the home.
In this case, the agent may be sued because they had a duty to warn viewers of potential hazards. The question is whether the homeowner or agent knew of the potential hazard. If neither knew of the hazard, the agent cannot be sued on the basis of negligence.
The vast majority of cases will go against the homeowner.
Homeowner's insurance will often cover the legal costs and will ensure that the injured gets the medical care they need. A homeowner that has failed to pay their insurance may be held liable in a personal injury case.
What Realtor Magazine Recommends
REALTOR Magazine recommends that all real estate agents discuss safety with their clients. The magazine recommends that you conduct a security survey for all of your clients. The goal is to discuss safety with the client and:
- Keep valuables safe
- Make homes safer
- Reduce the risks of accidents.
When you provide a safety checklist to the potential buyer, it also makes you stand out from the crowd.
A few safety points to discuss, which are often excluded, include:
- Removing or locking prescription drugs away prior to showings.
- Removing valuables that may be at-risk of theft.
- Taking down family photos which may pose a risk to the family and be used as identification.
- Using monitoring options to keep the home safe
Buyers and agents need the home to be safe when viewing, and a checklist covers all of the basic points to ensure the safety of all visitors. It's important to remove any weapons from the home, too. Guns or knives, along with any other weapons, should be removed from the home prior to the open house.
Real estate agents should take additional precautions when dealing with vacant or distressed homes. These precautions include a search around the home prior to showing to see if there are any signs of a vagrant living in the home.
Agents can clear the floor, remove items and even secure wall art or shelving that may be at risk of falling.
Taking preventative measures can reduce risk of liability and reduce the risk of any potential homebuyer being injured during a viewing.