Industry attorneys focus on new forms, agency issues

The Seattle King County REALTORS® annual Battle of the Barristers legal seminar is equal measures of legal debate, important case law and practical dos and don’t for real estate brokers.

At this year’s event, held today in Bellevue, top attorneys Mike Spence, Chris Osborn, Annie Fitzsimmons, Lars Neste and Doug Tingvall, covered topics from the copyright and ownership of real estate photos to the pitfalls of property inspections. Their practical knowledge, gleaned from trying real estate cases and developing statewide forms, helped inform the discussion.

One of the most heated exchanges among the attorneys was sparked by the topic of “off” market sales, sometimes referred to as pocket listings. Chris Osborn, corporate counsel to the NWMLS, cautioned brokers about the hazards of “off” market sales, citing statistics from other multiple listing services in the U.S. which show that “off” market listings, on average, sell for less than those advertised through the local MLS. Other attorneys echoed his concern about legal problems that could occur after the sale either due to class action lawsuits or future claims by those who inherit the estate. This discussion morphed into a debate between Annie Fitzsimmons and Doug Tingvall on the “unauthorized practice of law” by brokers who merely draw up a contract for a fee in certain off-market transactions.

The fireworks seemed to subside until moderator Mike Spence challenged Annie about the use of new NWMLS form 1S and when listing office brokers are assumed to be designated as sub-agents for the seller, and not representatives of the buyer.  New form 1S was developed to eliminate any ambiguity  about when any broker, other than the listing broker, is deemed to represent the buyer. Brokers were cautioned to fully review the circumstances in which a form 1S should be used by a brokerage with a listing contract to establish sub-agents of the seller.