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Accountability Counts
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Listing agents cannot “disclaim” responsibility for listing accuracy

The Canopy MLS Rules and Regulations requires Member Participants and Subscribers to submit accurate listing data and are required to correct any known errors (see Sections 1(g) and 1(h)). Additionally, listing agents cannot “disclaim” responsibility for listing accuracy regardless of whether the source of the information was the seller-principal, another real estate professional, tax data, etc., per the North Carolina Real Estate Commission (NCREC).

Neither Canopy MLS nor NCREC prohibits listing agents from inputting listing disclaimers that say, “buyer agent to verify schools and square footage.” Additionally, South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation says disclaimers placed in MLS listings are not a defense.

However, such disclaimers are meaningless because NCREC says listing agents cannot “disclaim” responsibility for listing accuracy, regardless of whether the source of the information was the seller-principal, another real estate professional, tax data, etc.

Warning flags

Actually, such disclaimers draw attention to the possibility that the listing agent has not met his or her responsibility of verifying the accuracy of the data reported in the listing. NCREC says the listing agent is expected to take reasonable steps to verify all property data when taking the listing, and to accurately report such information to prospective buyers and other agents. The listing agent is in a much better position to verify most property data than other agents involved in a transaction. If the agent does not investigate the facts, the agent might be legally liable for making a negligent misrepresentation. In each situation, NCREC holds each agent accountable according to the “reasonableness” test. In other words, would a reasonably prudent agent, in the same or similar circumstance, have known that the information being provided was incorrect?

Applies to selling agents, too

For a selling agent (agent working with a buyer), the real estate commission will apply a different standard from the one applied in the case of a listing agent. According to NCREC, generally, a selling agent may rely on the accuracy of property information provided by a listing agent, such as information on a listing information sheet or in the MLS, unless the selling agent reasonably suspects that the information might be inaccurate. Thus, a selling agent is not expected to personally verify the accuracy of information provided by the listing agent in most instances. However, NCREC still judges a selling agent according to the general “reasonableness” standard and does not automatically relieve the selling agent from responsibility for relying on data provided by the listing agent.

Handling complaints

If a Canopy MLS Member Participant or Subscriber seeks to file a complaint about a listing that contains a disclaimer for listing accuracy, particularly with regard to square footage, Canopy MLS staff directs such complaints to the NCREC. It is important to remember that Canopy MLS requires square footage to be input for all listings. When square footage is reported, NCREC requires agents to either measure the square footage of the property themselves, according to the Residential Square Footage Guidelines, or hire another professional, such as an appraiser or other more experienced agent, to measure the square footage.

Canopy MLS does not require school assignments to be reported in MLS listings. If a listing contains inaccurate school assignment information and Canopy MLS receives a complaint, we can take action. Canopy MLS staff first tries to verify the school assignment if possible, and then sends a violation notice to the listing agent and copies the broker in charge (BIC). The listing agent can then correct the error or respond to the complaint. Such violations are considered Category I violations, which do not carry a fine for the first violation, but subsequent violations do carry fines.

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