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This article was published on: 10/01/1996

News

Three Salespeople Liable in Radon Disclosure Case
PITTSBURGH--Three realty salespeople have been ordered to pay $30,000 in damages for allegedly failing to disclose information about high radon levels in a listed house.

The trial, in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, was one of the first in the nation dealing with nondisclosure of high levels of radon, according to attorneys involved in the case.

Radon is a gas that leaks naturally from the ground in some areas. It's considered a health hazard when found in high concentrations in a house.

Two of the salespeople, from Prudential Preferred Realty, shared the listing on the Pittsburgh house. The third sales associate, from Howard Hanna Real Estate Co., acted as a subagent and worked with the buyers.

The house was tested for radon before its purchase in 1992, and the test indicated a negligible radon level. After the buyers moved into the $172,000 house, they discovered from a contractor that a test done two years earlier had shown very high radon levels, according to attorneys.

The buyers sued the sellers and all three salespeople, charging misrepresentation and fraud in connection with the failure to disclose the prior test results. The two listing salespeople said they had disclosed the test results to the subagent. The subagent denied being told.

''What this came down to was one salesperson's word against another's,'' says attorney David Kuhn, who represented the listing sales associates.

The jury found the sellers not liable, apparently believing the sellers' claim that they had disclosed everything they knew to the listing salespeople. The jury found all three salespeople liable under the state's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.

California Regulatory Info Available on Internet
SACRAMENTO, Calif.--Real estate practitioners can get regulatory information from the California Department of Real Estate's new home page on the Internet.

The page contains information on regulations and laws and includes electronic links to other useful Internet sites, such as the complete California Code.

Other material at the site: salesperson and broker license requirements; exam application requirements; exam descriptions; license renewal requirements; downloadable forms; frequently asked questions and answers; and an on-line version of the department's quarterly publication.

The Internet address is http://www.dre.cahwnet.gov/default.htm.

Occupancy Standards: What's Reasonable?
CLEVELAND--A fair housing advocacy group has sued four suburban cities here, charging that their rental occupancy standards--requiring a minimum square footage per family member--are too restrictive and violate the federal Fair Housing Act.

The Akron-based Fair Housing Advocates Association says the cities' standards unfairly discriminate against families with children.

According to the national Building Officials and Code Administrators standards, apartments need a minimum of 350 square feet of livable space for four tenants. The cities of Richmond Heights, Warrensville Heights, Fairview Park, and Bedford Heights have requirements that greatly exceed that, says attorney Andrew Margolius, who represents the Fair Housing Advocates.

Municipal square-footage standards are on the increase nationwide, he says.


LEGAL BRIEFS

A New Jersey sales associate was found guilty of misrepresenting a homebuilder's qualifications even though the salesperson had no knowledge of the falsity. The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, noted that the state's Consumer Fraud Act doesn’t require a showing of knowledge of falsity or intent to deceive in order to hold the offender liable. This New Jersey statute deviates from common law and from other state consumer fraud statutes, according to NAR's legal newsletter for brokers, The Letter of the Law. (Gennari v. Weichert Co., REALTORSŪ)

A landlord can't escape liability for negligence just because tenants sign an exculpatory clause in the rental agreement, the Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled. The case involved a tenant who was injured when she slipped and fell on ice that had formed as a result of a negligently repaired roof leak, according to Premises Liability Report. The appeals court decided that the exculpatory clause was void on the grounds of public policy. (Stanley v. Creighton Co., 911 P2d 705, Colo Ct App 1996)
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