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Don’t Add Language to the Code of Ethics

Dear Shannon: What do I do when a buyer says they are working with another Realtor? A cohort says the Code of Ethics requires us to ask if they have signed a written exclusive agreement. And another person said we have to get a copy of it. Is that what the code says?

ORLANDO, Fla. – Dear Shannon: I’m a new Realtor® and read your last article, Must I Push and Probe for Representation Info? I now understand that when I’m showing one of my listings to a potential buyer who says they’re working with another Realtor, I should not just ignore that statement. I understand that I need to do something (I think your article said to make reasonable efforts) to find out if the buyer has an exclusive agreement with another Realtor. However, I’m confused about how far to go with this.

At an office meeting recently, a few of us discussed Standard of Practice 16-9 and how we are supposed find out if a buyer has an exclusive agreement. A fellow Realtor said that the Code requires us to ask if the buyer has signed a written exclusive; another Realtor said we have to ask for a copy of it.

There was quite a debate in our office but no consensus. Now I’m confused about what to do. When a buyer tells me that they’re working with another Realtor, do I have to ask if they signed a written exclusive agreement? Do I then have to ask for a copy of it? – New & Confused

Dear New & Confused: Thank you for reading my last article. It’s so important to stay plugged in to all the educational resources available to you. You may be new, but you’re making yourself a knowledgeable professional. Great job! Now, let’s unpack the different issues you’ve presented and get to an answer to your questions regarding Standard of Practice (SOP) 16-9.

SOP 16-9 says, “Realtors®, prior to entering into a representation agreement, have an affirmative obligation to make reasonable efforts to determine whether the prospect is subject to a current, valid exclusive agreement to provide the same type of real estate service. (Amended 1/04)

When you’re showing a potential buyer one of your listings and they mention they’re working with another Realtor, SOP 16-9 says you have to do something to find out if the buyer has an exclusive agreement with that Realtor, because doing nothing spells potential trouble with the Code.

You are correct. SOP 16-9 says you have “an affirmative obligation to make reasonable efforts to determine whether” the buyer has an exclusive relationship with another Realtor. Unfortunately, the Code doesn’t define “reasonable efforts.” But, does it say what your fellow Realtors think it says regarding a signed written agreement in this scenario?

Let’s think this through and look carefully at the language of SOP 16-9 which says “current,” “valid,” and “exclusive.” Look again, carefully. Notice it does not say a “signed,” or “written,” agreement. SOP 16-9 does not contain language requiring you to ask the buyer if they have signed a written exclusive agreement, nor does it have language requiring you to obtain a copy of such agreement. The language just isn’t there. I encourage your fellow Realtors to resist the urge to add language to the Code.

In this case, when you show a potential buyer one of your listings and they mention that they’re working with another Realtor you have an affirmative obligation to make reasonable efforts to determine whether the buyer is subject to an current, valid exclusive agreement with another Realtor. However, SOP 16-9 does not require you to ask if they signed a written exclusive agreement, nor does it require you to obtain a copy of it.

Shannon Allen is an attorney and Florida Realtors Director of Local Association Services
Note: Advice deemed accurate on date of publication

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https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2022/06/dont-add-language-code-ethics