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General Risk Management Topics

Warning About Internet Copyrighted Pictures

Pictures found on the internet are not necessarily free for agents to use.  Many are copyrighted and if agents use a copyrighted picture, they may be required to pay a fee for its usage.  Many of these pictures are of homes and neighborhoods that agents might wish to use in their marketing of properties, but be careful to verify whether the picture is copyrighted.

The main source of these pictures on the internet is Getty Images or Getty Rights Managed images.  They are not the only source of copyrighted pictures on the internet, but they have a very large database of these copyrighted pictures.  They are vigilant in checking to see who is using their copyrighted photos.  Very often, agents use these photos innocently and without knowledge that they are copyrighted, but that is not an excuse that will allow the agent to escape paying a fee for their usage.

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Guidelines for Hiring Licensed or Unlicensed Assistants

It is important for a real estate agent to follow proper procedures when hiring licensed or unlicensed assistants.  First, there are two CAR forms that should be used when an agent decides to get an assistant.   There is the Personal Assistant Contract as well as the Broker/Associate-Licensee/Assistant Third Party Agreement.   It is suggested that both these forms be used.

In addition, CAR has an excellent Q & A entitled “Unlicensed Assistants” that lays out in chart form the activities that unlicensed assistants are legally permitted to do and those that are not permitted.   It is suggested that the agent hiring an unlicensed assistant provide the assistant with this form and have the assistant sign it on the last page indicating that they have received this and that they agree to abide by the guidelines set forth in it.

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Advisory Regarding Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals

Agents should be very careful when asked whether a landlord will accept pets.  Both Federal and State law require a landlord to reasonably accommodate a tenant’s disability.  Disability is defined very broadly to include any mental or physical disorder or condition that makes it difficult to perform a major life activity.  If a tenant requests that the landlord permit a service animal or emotional support animal because it is necessary to accommodate the tenant’ disability, the owner would be required to allow the tenant to keep the animal in most situations.

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Question and Answer Regarding Translation of Documents and Reports

Question:         If an agent reads and writes a foreign language, can that agent translate documents and reports in that language for their client?

 

Answer:           No.  If an agent translates documents and reports, it leaves open the possibility of a client claiming that the agent misinterpreted or misread the report.  For example, we had a case where an agent and the buyer spoke Spanish.  The agent read the inspection report to the client in Spanish.  The inspection report contained warnings regarding drainage issues.  The agent read those warnings to the buyer and the buyer accepted them.  The buyer later had drainage problems and sued the agent claiming that the agent failed to properly translate the warnings in the inspection report for the buyer.  If the agent had not translated that information, the agent could have used the defense that the buyer received and inspected the inspection report.  However, because there was a question about what was interpreted, we no longer had that defense available.

Court Holds Lender’s Appraiser Not Liable for Alleged Misrepresentation to a Land Purchaser

In Willemsen v. Mitrosilis, a California appellate court recently held a lender’s appraiser not liable to a land purchaser for an alleged failure to supply information, which would have influenced plaintiff’s decision to purchase the land. In Willemsen, plaintiff offered to purchase a lot. Plaintiff applied for financing through a bank. The bank retained defendant, an appraiser, to determine the value of the land. The purchase agreement between the buyer and seller contained numerous contingencies to allow plaintiff to determine whether the property was suitable for his purposes. The purchase agreement did not include an appraisal contingency.

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Agents – Be Aware of Wire Fraud Scam

There is a new wire fraud scam of which real estate professionals need to be aware. Many agents and/or title companies send wiring instructions to their clients to deposit funds into escrow by email. Email hackers are obtaining these emails and sending updated instructions to clients with wiring instructions into their own accounts. Unfortunately, clients believe these emails are coming from agents or the title companies and are wiring their money into the hackers’ accounts. This is creating a lot of issues in transactions.

It is recommended that agents have clients communicate directly with the title company regarding wiring instructions. It is further advised that agents use secure servers to send emails to their clients. For example, agents should consider using their company’s email, as most companies have a secured server which will limit the chances of hacking. Agents should not send emails from publicly accessed emails or through Wi-Fi.

Alert – Agents Should Be Cautious During Open Homes

Recently, one of our broker/clients contacted us and advised us that after an open house, the vacant home that he had staged was burglarized. Several of the staging items, such as the television, were taken. The burglar may have cased the home during the open house and returned and broke through a window after the open house concluded.

A California appellate court also recently published an opinion arising out of burglaries from open houses, wherein the defendant stole jewelry. (While the appellate court opinion is irrelevant to a broker’s practice, the fact that the burglaries occurred at an open house is of concern.)

Agents are advised to take precautions during open homes. Agents should advise sellers to ensure that all valuables are safely stored. Agents should also stay alert during open homes for anyone out of place or suspicious.

Brokers are also encouraged to review their insurance policies to evaluate coverage for these instances. Some insurance policies include protections during stolen items during open homes or lockbox violations.

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