Contributed by Pat Pitocchi, Director of Corporate Training
Florida REALTORS® must align all practice with Federal law, Florida statutes, NAR’s Code of Ethics, FREC’s guidelines and brokerage policy. One of the core principles of all requires us to treat all “honestly and fairly.”
As customs change, some changes can be a “double-edged sword.” Such are listening devices. An old adage admonishes everyone to “…know who is listening to you.” While that may have been problematic sometimes, in 2021 Florida, it is doubly so.
Let’s consider a scenario.
Two buyers view a property with their REALTOR®. They made an appointment, entered the property and then debriefed during the showing. Their body language and words show that they LOVE this property. BUT they did not know that the sellers were listening. Is that important? Yes….
What can be done?
First, Florida law requires two-party notice before recording. So, both parties must KNOW in advance. Second, our MLS requires sellers to disclose listening devices in MLS (some are tiny and difficult to detect). Third, if listening devices are present, we recommend posting an additional disclosure before entering to ensure awareness.
How can we ensure proper notice for all?
First, each customer should acknowledge receipt of a disclosure to ensure all customers’ awareness. Downing-Frye associates have access to these forms for free through our intranet. Second, the MLS notice of listening devices must be discussed. And third, REALTORS® should not discuss debriefing within the property.
But how can we ensure customers will not debrief inside?
By openly discussing – before entering the property – how to behave while inside the property. This discussion must become part of a REALTOR’s® buyers system before entering property.
And what about sellers?
The same warning and disclosure apply to your sellers system. At listing, all expectations must be set and discussed. All sellers must be aware of Florida’s laws and customs. And sellers must disclose – in MLS and on the property – any listening devices – present and future. This should be a discussion item along with reminding sellers to refer all questions about listening devices, motivation, etc. to their REALTOR®. Sometimes it is helpful to practice actual wording to protect sellers from transferring any inappropriate information.
Overall, listening devices can have legitimate and constructive uses. But without fore-knowledge and appropriate behavior, there is a possibility of violation of Florida law, REALTOR® Code of Ethics, FREC and brokerage relationship guidelines. Safeguard the power that knowledge provides by always knowing who might be listening to you.