Understanding Professional Negligence Claims: A Guide for North Carolina Realtors

Understanding Professional Negligence Claims: A Guide for North Carolina Realtors

With North Carolina’s ever-growing real estate market, realtors are busier than ever. While that’s great for business, juggling multiple clients, listings, and duties at once can lead to mistakes, even for the most experienced realtors. Mistakes can then lead to professional negligence claims against real estate agents.

Understanding the concept of professional negligence and being proactive in risk management is crucial for North Carolina realtors to protect themselves and provide high-quality service to their clients. 

Understanding Negligence

Negligence, in the legal context, refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care or skill in performing a duty, resulting in harm or loss to another party. This differs from fraud based on intent, as negligence typically involves unintentional actions or omissions that lead to negative consequences. In legal terms, negligence is often determined by assessing whether a reasonable person would have acted differently in a similar situation to prevent harm.

Proving negligence typically involves demonstrating that a duty of care existed, that this duty was breached by the responsible party, and that the breach directly caused harm or loss to the affected individual or entity.

Potential Professional Negligence Claims Against Realtors

For realtors, negligence can manifest in various ways, from errors or omissions in providing services to breaches of fiduciary duty owed to clients. Professional negligence can also occur when a real estate agent provides incorrect information about property boundaries, zoning laws, or potential future developments in the area. 

The following are common professional negligence claims that realtors in North Carolina might face:

Misrepresentation or Failure to Disclose: Realtors have a duty to provide accurate and complete information to their clients regarding properties, market conditions, and any material facts that may affect a transaction. Failure to disclose defects or issues with a property, or providing false information, can lead to claims of misrepresentation.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty: Realtors owe a fiduciary duty to their clients, which includes acting in the client’s best interests, maintaining confidentiality, and disclosing any conflicts of interest, such as representing both the buyer and the seller of a home at the same time. Breaching this duty by prioritizing personal gain or failing to act in the client’s best interests can result in professional negligence claims.

Negligent Property Inspection: Realtors may be held liable for negligence if they fail to conduct thorough property inspections or overlook significant issues that could affect the value or safety of a property. Negligent property inspections can result in financial loss or harm to clients and may lead to legal claims.

Failure to Advise or Exercise Due Diligence: Realtors are expected to provide knowledgeable advice and guidance to clients throughout the real estate transaction process. Failure to advise clients on important matters, such as zoning regulations, legal implications of a contract, or potential risks, can result in claims of negligence.

How to Avoid Professional Negligence 

Maintain Clear Communication: Effective communication with clients is essential for realtors to ensure that all parties are informed and understand their rights and obligations. Clear and transparent communication can help prevent misunderstandings and minimize the risk of negligence claims.

Stay Informed and Educated: Realtors should stay up-to-date on changes in real estate laws, regulations, and industry standards to ensure compliance and provide informed advice to clients. Continuing education and professional development can enhance realtors’ knowledge and skills, reducing the likelihood of errors or omissions.

Document Transactions and Decisions: Keeping detailed records of all communication, transactions, and decisions made throughout the real estate process can provide evidence of due diligence and compliance with professional standards. Documentation can also serve as protection in the event of disputes or claims of negligence.

Consult Legal Counsel When Needed: North Carolina requires real estate closings to be handled by a licensed attorney, but it’s helpful for realtors to partner with an experienced real estate attorney from the beginning of the transaction. A seasoned attorney can help realtors navigate potential risks and avoid pitfalls that could lead to professional negligence claims.

Partner with Starling Law Firm

At Starling Law Firm, we understand the complexities and challenges realtors face in the ever-evolving real estate industry. Our experienced team of real estate attorneys is here to provide comprehensive legal representation and guidance to realtors in North Carolina. 

If you find yourself facing professional negligence claims, our attorneys will work diligently to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf. Additionally, partnering with Starling Law Firm at the onset of a real estate transaction can help mitigate the risk of professional negligence by ensuring compliance with state laws and industry standards. Contact us today to discuss how we can assist you with your legal real estate needs.