Common Legal Pitfalls Realtors Need to Avoid
Much of today’s marketing relies on technology and innovation, so it pays for you to know how to advertise effectively and stay on the right side of the law. Being informed is the best way to stay out of trouble. Here are some legal issues that may impact you as a Realtor:
Be careful not to violate the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) if you are using an auto dialer or mobile app for prospecting. You can make your calls or send your texts to one individual at a time. That process avoids the potential legal traps associated with robocalling. Respect households whose phones are on the Do Not Call (DNC) lists for your community. Another way to avoid trouble is to get written permission at open houses, or have visitors click a permission box on your website or through social media.
If you see a nice beach, golf course or community photo online, don’t assume you can use that photo in your listing or marketing materials. Unless you get permission from the person who owns the rights to that photo, you could be breaking the copyright law. The copyright law applies to any “unique artistic expression,” including videos, music, illustrations, paintings and written materials—not just photography. If you want to use an online image or other content, get written permission from the person who holds the copyright.
Undisclosed latent defects
Some listings have problems that aren’t clearly visible. A seller or real estate professional who is aware of such a latent defect must disclose the problem to a prospective buyer. It’s not just to protect the buyer; it’s to reduce the risk of someone suing you later on. While the law only requires the seller to disclose things that may materially impact the sale of the home, sellers may complete a full seller disclosure form to go the extra step. That way, a buyer who chooses to go forward has made a well-informed decision. If you become aware of an issue after a sales contract is signed, tell the buyer’s agent right away–don’t wait until the last minute to deliver an unexpected surprise. You should also have the seller detail any improvement or repair projects, including the dates and scope of the work. That can protect you against a lawsuit involving a latent defect that originated with a prior owner.
A listing agent who removes an unsightly utility pole from a photo of the home could be the target of a deceptive advertising lawsuit. Making a false claim on social media or posting negative remarks about a competitor can also be a form of deceptive advertising under the federal Lanham Act, which protects trademarks and copyrighted material from being used in deceptive advertising. Stick to the facts—that’s the best way to avoid a deceptive advertising lawsuit. You don’t want to do something that would mislead a customer.
Florida Realtors. (May 18, 2020). 6 Common Legal Pitfalls Realtors Need to Avoid.
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