Real estate disputes that lead to lawsuits most commonly involve property management issues such as debt collection, liability for tenant’s property condition, liability for the condition of a common area, liability for crimes occurring on leased property, and fair-housing claims, the National Association of Realtors announced today.

The Realtor trade group released the findings of a legal report, prepared by Legal Research Center Inc., to its members at the Web site.

This “2005 Legal Scan” tracks historical data regarding more than 90 different legal liability issues faced by real estate professionals. The report uses this data, along with surveys of selected industry leaders, to predict what issues NAR members will likely face in the future.

“NAR’s Legal Scan is our crystal ball to a better understanding of the key legal issues and trends affecting the U.S. real estate marketplace,” said Laurie Janik, NAR general counsel, in a statement. “The 2005 Legal Scan provides NAR members with a wealth of trend information on agent/broker liability on issues such as agency, fair-housing and property management law, helping them better understand – and plan for – the legal pitfalls and compliance requirements they will likely encounter.”

The complete study is available at no charge to all NAR members who enter their password at the Web site.

The report’s data primarily is drawn from traditional legal research of court decisions, statutes and regulations, and jury verdict reports. There were 1,058 specific court cases examined as part of the study, as well as 350 new or amended statutes and regulations, the association announced.

An appendix in the report lists each case, statute and regulation found for each issue. Attorneys can check the appendix to “quickly to see if there are any relevant cases or legislative actions that offer guidance for a pending legal matter, saving real estate professionals valuable time and money on legal costs,” the association announced.

Some findings in the legal report:

  • In 72 percent of the real estate court cases in which liability was determined, the real estate brokers or agents involved in the dispute were not held liable;

  • Indoor mold continues to be a hot and growing issue for real estate litigation, with more states enacting laws that require disclosure of mold and more court cases being reported;

  • Agency disclosure issues are drawing significant legislative attention, with 19 new or amended statutes and regulations regarding the subject being introduced in the past two years;

  • Additional real estate hot topics targeted for increased preventive training include dual agency, breach of fiduciary duty, Internet advertising, and anti-solicitation laws.

James Seidl, president of Legal Research Center, said the report “is an invaluable resource for planning training programs for real estate licensees to ensure that they comply with state regulations while implementing efficient, effective and ethical real estate business practices.”


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