Legal Hotline: When is It Permissible to Contact Another Agent's Client?
July 28, 2020 Legal Updates MAR Legal Hotline
A. REALTORS® learn early on in their careers that contacting another REALTOR’S® client may be a violation of the Code of Ethics, as well as state law governing contracts. Article 16 of the Code of Ethics prohibits REALTORS® from engaging in any practice or taking any action that is inconsistent with another REALTOR’S® exclusive relationship with a client. The Code requires REALTORS® to make a reasonable effort to determine whether an individual is subject to a current exclusive agreement prior to entering into an exclusive agreement of their own.
This, however, is not without exceptions. The Code contains several carve outs permitting a REALTOR® to contact a represented individual:
- General announcements, canvasses, or mailings to prospects describing available services and terms of availability.
- Offering to provide, or entering into a contract to provide, a different type of real estate service unrelated to the type of service currently being provided.
- Offering the same type of service for property not subject to other brokers’ exclusive agreements.
- To inquire as to the terms of the existing exclusive agreement if the other agent refuses to disclose the expiration date and/or the nature of the existing agreement.
- The contact was initiated by the individual, the REALTOR® may discuss the terms of a future agreement or may enter into an agreement that becomes effective upon the expiration of the existing agreement.
Interfering with another agent’s relationship with a client may also expose an agent to liability under a claim of interference with a business relationship. In order to obtain relief under this theory, the following elements must be satisfied:
- There was a valid contractual relationship or a valid business expectancy.
- There must be knowledge of the relationship or expectancy.
- There must be intentional interference with the relationship or expectancy.
- There must be damages.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to successfully contact the REALTOR® on the other side of the transaction, and your situation does not fall within one of the enumerated exceptions, you should attempt to contact the broker. Unfortunately, even if contacting the broker does not yield the desired result, you risk an ethics complaint, and possibly a contract interference complaint, if you attempt to contact a represented individual directly.
Services provided through the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, by providing this service, assumes no actual or implied responsibility for any improper use of responses to questions through this service. The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® will not be legally responsible for any potential misrepresentations or errors made by providing this service. For more information regarding these topics authorized callers should contact the MAR legal hotline at 800-370-5342 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.