Violations of the Code of Ethics Article 3, Standard of Practice 3-9 have become an epidemic as more and more REALTORS® access properties in defiance of showing instructions
"We were in the neighborhood, and the house had a lockbox."
"I called the agent per the showing instructions and left a message."
"We drove by, and the seller said it was ok."
"My buyers insisted on seeing it right then."
"The property was vacant so I didn’t think it was a big deal."
"I have a key, and I can access any property with a lockbox that I want."
Believe it or not, those are actual statements of defense offered during actual hearings by actual ORRA members accused of violating the REALTOR® Code of Ethics Article 3, Standard of Practice 3-9:
REALTORS® shall not provide access to listed property on terms other than those established by the owner or the listing broker.
According to ORRA Professional Standards Committee Chairman Sandra Miller, Happy Homes, the number of inquiries that ORRA is receiving and the number of formal complaints that are being filed in regards SOP 3-9 are reaching epidemic proportions. “As an example, out of the current ethics cases that are making their way through the grievance process, nine of 17 involve SOP 3-9,” says Miller. “It’s shocking, because there is simply no excuse for a REALTOR® to enter any listing counter to the showing instructions under any circumstances.”
Miller also points out that both agents and brokers, both new and seasoned, are being named as respondents to SOP 3-9 complaints.
ORRA CEO Cliff Long contributes to the discussion of this significant issue. “It cannot be stressed enough that the protection and security of one’s home is paramount and when a seller makes the decision to put a lock box on their home, those sellers are trusting their listing agent with one of their most important possessions,” says Long. “That agent is assuring them that their home will be safe, that no one will enter without their agents’ knowledge, and that REALTORS® can be trusted to follow the rules and REALTOR® Code of Ethics. The natural extension, of course, is that every REALTOR® who violates the COE by accessing a home without permission thereby demeans the professionalism of all REALTORS®.”
REALTORS® who enter a listing counter to showing instructions are not only violating the REALTOR® COE, they are violating the Article 6, Section 1 of the Rules and Regulations of My Florida Regional Multiple Listing Service:
All dealings concerning property exclusively listed, or with buyers/tenants, who are exclusively represented, shall be carried on with the Listing Participant/ User, and not with the customer, except with the consent of the Listing Participant/User or when such dealings are initiated by the customers. Appointments for showing and negotiations with the owner(s) of record for the purchase of listed property filed with the MFRMLS shall be conducted through the Listing Participant except under the following circumstances:
A. The Listing Participant/User gives the cooperating Participant/User specific written authority to show and/or negotiate directly, or;
B. If, after reasonable effort, the cooperating Participant/User cannot contact the Listing Participant/User, the Listing Participant, at their option, may preclude all further direct negotiations. Reasonable effort is defined as two days excluding weekends and federally recognized holidays after the cooperating Participant/User sends the Listing Participant a written request to show and/or negotiate the listing.
C. For purposes of this section, anything in writing which is transmitted or delivered by hand, facsimile or electronic means shall be deemed binding and sufficient.
“Showing instructions are provided in Matrix for a reason and should always be followed,” reiterates Miller. “Plus, it’s worth noting that Showing Time sends an e-mail notification to the listing agent each time the home is accessed, and Supra notifies the listing agent each time the lock box has been opened. There’s no getting away with it; a listing agent will absolutely know that you’ve entered the property.”
Accessing a listing without authorization for purposes other than showings are violations of the COE and rules and regulations, as well. Consider these scenarios:
An inspector or pool service technician is leaving and gives you the key.
You allow the buyers to go into the property before closing, just to let them clean up a little or to store belongings.
Entering a property without permission under ANY circumstances, including the above, is a COE violation subject to consequences that could include an automatic $500 administrative fee, fines of up to $15,000, and required education classes.
Then there’s also the safety aspect. Agents who enter a home without properly following the showing instructions do so at the risk of encountering loose dogs, frightened and/or angry homeowners with weapons, and activated security systems. More than one seller has insisted on reimbursement for the cost of a false alarm.
On a final note, remember that the Preamble of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics states in part:
REALTORS®, therefore, are zealous to maintain and improve the standards of their calling and share with their fellow REALTORS® a common responsibility for its integrity and honor.
Whatsoever ye would that others should do to you, do ye even so to them.