Home inspections

Obtain written confirmation before third-party entry

Fall 2013

Once an offer is made on a property, various professionals will probably require access before the transaction is finalized. Regardless of whether it’s a home inspector, appraiser, engineer or a contractor, it’s in your best interest to clarify with your client (whether it be a buyer or seller) if you will or will not be present for those visits.

Over the years, RECO has received complaints about property damage, theft and even personal injury sustained when, contrary to a seller’s expectations, non-registrants were given access to the property without a real estate professional in attendance.

While there is no section in the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 (REBBA 2002) that specifically requires a registrant to be in attendance, RECO’s Discipline Committee has made it clear that it is unacceptable for a home inspection to take place without a registrant present unless there is written consent from the seller. In addition, many local real estate boards have a rule to address these situations. For example, the Toronto Real Estate Board has a rule that requires the buyer’s representative to be, “in continuous attendance during any showing of the property, buyer visits or inspections necessary to fulfill conditions.”

Registrants have an obligation to protect a client’s best interests under the Code of Ethics. As such, any time a non-registrant requires access to the property in the course of completing a trade RECO recommends that you obtain clear written confirmation from your client about whether you are to be present. This applies whether you’re representing the buyer or the seller.

“Given your obligation under the Code of Ethics to promote and protect your client’s best interests, it’s a good idea to discuss and document whether you will be present during home inspections and the like,” says RECO’s Registrar, Joseph Richer. “If something does go wrong, a written record confirming the arrangement demonstrates your diligence in seeking direction from your client. An acknowledged email would suffice.”

Consider clarifying the arrangement with your client while fulfilling the obligation to identify the services that will be provided, as required under REBBA 2002. Doing so will help avoid misunderstandings and help manage expectations.