When buying or selling a property in Florida people usually rely on the help of a real estate licensee. What are the basic duties that these professionals owe to the public by law?
Florida has a very particular legislation on the matter and there are three different arrangements that can happen with very different levels of protection for the customer. It is therefore paramount to understand where you sit in your relationship and what you can actually expect from the licensee. Here I keep talking about licensee avoiding the word Realtor because they are two different things. A Realtor is a professional who, in addition to having a license, is also a member of a trade organization with its own code of ethics.
In this article I focus on what the law dictates and which is applicable to any real estate professional, no matter the organization she is a member of.
The Absolute Minimal Level of Duties That Anyone Is Bound to Provide
There are only three basic obligations that any real estate professional will have to provide to their customers in Florida. The first one is account for all funds. It is common, when purchasing a home, to provide a good faith deposit. It is an amount of money or other valuable item that proves to the seller that the buyer is serious about the offer. Such money is usually delivered to a real estate professional which has then the duty to deliver it where intended.
It is never given directly to the seller, for obvious reasons, but is held in trust by either the broker representing the buyer or a title company/attorney. Whichever is the case, the real estate professional has to account for those funds. They cannot be used by anyone or for any purpose except as a deposit. They will then be delivered to the seller at the time of closing or returned to the buyer if warranted by the situation.
The second basic duty that every real estate professional has to perform is deal honestly and fairly. The customer relies on the expertise and the knowledge of the professional. She depends on any statement made by the professional which has relevance to the transaction. Misleading or false information will lead to bad decisions and to damages for either the buyer or the seller. To prevent this, the state disciplines any professional which doesn’t comply with either fines or the suspension/revocation of her license.
The Disclosure of Important Facts
The last duty is closely connected to the previous one and requires to disclose all known facts that affect value of residential property. Because of the greater competence or the familiarity with the building and the area, real estate professionals are able to discover facts that the average buyers won’t readily notice. Some of these facts will affect the valuation of the property in the eyes of the purchaser and will therefore guide her to make a more informed offer. This duty puts upon the professional the responsibility to disclose these facts to the potential buyer even when this might derail the transaction altogether. Any professional is bound to this duty, whether she works with the buyer or the seller.
These are the very basic duties required of any real estate professional in Florida dealing with residential sales. Anyone is bound by them.