Not only do you need to abide by state and local guidelines governing your professional activities in the COVID-19 era, but the REALTOR® Code of Ethics requires your attention as well. How does the Code apply to the flurry of new issues arising from the pandemic? Here are questions to ask yourself as well as tips from ethics educator, attorney, and Missouri broker Bruce Aydt, ABR, CRB.
Article 1: Fiduciary duty and honesty. What’s your best advice about a seller putting their property on the market today? Will it be in every seller’s best interests to try to sell now? Honestly evaluate the market for that seller.
Article 2: Disclosure of property conditions. If a REALTOR® has knowledge of a positive COVID-19 case in the property, disclosure may be required. It’s a “pertinent fact” about the “transaction” to be disclosed. Privacy laws may require that names not be disclosed.
Article 3: Cooperation and access. Follow showing instructions to the letter. Standards of Practice 3-9 and 1-16 require that access to property be given only on terms established by the owner or listing broker. In the age of COVID-19, this may include requiring appropriate protective gear, prohibiting touching of surfaces, or limiting the number of people in the property at one time.
Article 10: Discrimination. If you ask clients about COVID-19 symptoms before an in-person consultation or showing, ask every client. Services should never be denied on the basis of a protected class, such as national origin or disability, and reasonable accommodations should be provided when possible to ensure equal professional services are provided to every client and customer.
Article 12: Truthful communications. Presenting a true picture includes being honest about property availability and requirements for showings. It also means following MLS rules about disclosure of matters like short sales. When you advertise issues like mortgage forbearance you must explain all potential and relevant details, risks, and terms.
Article 16: Respecting exclusive representation. Don’t interfere with another broker’s exclusively represented client. If the exclusive broker is following stay-at-home guidelines by not physically showing a property, another broker soliciting a physical showing with that client would be interfering with the exclusive relationship of the first broker.