This story has opened up some great conversations among friends, neighbors, clients and other agents. I have dug in more, but this time, into the facts of disclosures and how to get information. The information is important, but more than that, its critical to understand how to use it and what boundaries you may have.
Per the Cincinnati Board of Realtors website, they have posted information about handling disclosures of convicted sexual predators and convicted felons. Here is a brief paragraph that has much of the pertinent information.
History and details- “Ohio’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Law, HB 180, was adopted in 1996 with an effective date of July 1, 1997 for the registration and community notification provisions. Ohio’s Megan’s Law was amended by Senate Bill 175, which became effective on May 7, 2002″
“HB 180 does not address a property owner’s or real estate licensee’s duty to disclose to a tenant or buyer that a known sex offender lives in the neighborhood. It is impossible to say with certainty how a court would rule on this disclosure issue as some decisions state that information of public record does not have to be disclosed and other decisions indicate that this could be found to be material information that should have been disclosed. Due to this uncertainty, if the property owner has been notified by the sheriff, the cautious approach would be to disclose this information to the buyer or tenant. Of course this issue and the brokerage disclosure policy must be discussed with the property owner and consented to. If the property owner does not consent, the broker must decide whether to comply with the owner’s request not to disclose or decline to sell/rent the property due to the possible risk involved.”
My Opinion- What I am reading is that no one knows what is the right thing to do… It is upto the memory of the Seller during the Listing appointment to mention to me that they have a neighbor with a ‘history’. The other time could come later, but if the Seller got the letter from the Sheriff 15 years ago, once, they would not have that on the top of their mind. The system has a flaw and I believe the State of Ohio does not know the correct answer. The idea that a client could divulge information and then say “don’t tell anyone” is a real concept, as I have had clients tell me things. It has never been about this topic, but its usually something mild and it doesnt require disclosure. Educating the client is without doubt the strongest position for the agent. While managing the potential of a client saying they don’t want something disclosed, the right decision for the agent is to inquire with his/her broker as to the correct way to handle that specific situation. Further, I would make this conversation with the Broker an email, to create a paper trail.
I have created liability by having too much information on this topic based on one of the paragraphs-
“It’s important for Realtors® to understand that prospective buyers are the ones who should be doing the offender research, should they desire. If the Realtor® gets involved, it could result in potential liability problems, as with any disclosure issues relating to the property.”
My Opinion- If the event happens and it is of knowledge to me, I would likely deliver the information regarding a particular person. I do not want to play judge or jury on other peoples lives as what is a ‘big deal’ to me, isn’t necessarily a ‘big deal’ to someone else. However, I am not going to seek this information as I just don’t have the time to investigate. I will however, build a page on the website dedicated to inspections as I think you should ask all of the questions in life that you want/ deserve an answer!