Calling expired listings is a time-honored way to drum up business in real estate, but being on the receiving end of such calls is not always welcome, so much so that homeowners sometimes get local authorities involved.
Now a fed-up former seller has decided to take on NRT LLC and Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC, subsidiaries of real estate giant Realogy, which owns the Coldwell Banker brand. NRT is the largest brokerage in the country by sales volume and operates company-owned Coldwell Banker brokerages. Coldwell Banker Real Estate is the brand’s franchise arm. Together, they have 3,000 franchise and company-owned offices and more than 92,000 agents in the U.S., Canada and 42 other countries, according to Realogy’s website.
Tustin, California, homeowner Jorge Valdes filed a class-action lawsuit against the companies in an April 3 complaint, alleging they violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) which prohibits making unsolicited autodialed calls to consumers without their consent, including calls to consumers registered on the national Do Not Call registry. Valdes put his cell number on the DNC list in 2010.
After Valdes’s former agent withdrew his listing from the multiple listing service without the home’s sale on May 15, 2018, Valdes received unsolicited, autodialed calls from three different Coldwell Banker and NRT agents to his DNC-listed cell number, according to the complaint. This was despite the listing not including any of Valdes’s phone numbers when it was in the MLS.
“Defendants’ unauthorized telephone calls harmed Plaintiff in the form of annoyance, nuisance, and invasion of privacy, and disturbed Valdes’ use and enjoyment of his cellular phone, in addition to the wear and tear on the phone’s hardware (including the phone’s battery) and the consumption of memory on the phone,” Valdes’s attorneys wrote in the complaint.
The complaint alleged that together NRT and Coldwell Banker train their agents to make unsolicited cold calls to consumers, including those with expired listings, to sell them Coldwell Banker’s brokerage services and provide their agents with “telephone numbers and other analytics for identifying leads to cold call, scripts for the cold calls, and preferred pricing from Coldwell Banker’s partner vendors for other cold calling related training and products, including autodialers.”
“Plaintiff does not have a relationship with Defendants or their Realtors and has never consented to be contacted by them,” the complaint said.
The complaint noted that Coldwell Banker and NRT supply their agents with lead prospecting software such as CBx Seller Leads and partner with vendors such as real estate coach Tom Ferry to train agents on cold calling. The suit also cited partnerships with other lead software firms that offer autodialers such as Landvoice and RedX, the latter of which has previously made the news for contributing to making life hell for some homeowners.
“As Coldwell Banker has expressly acknowledged, the leads it supplies to Realtors to cold call are not checked or scrubbed against the national Do Not Call registry as required under the TCPA,” the complaint said.
“Ultimately, Defendants direct Realtors to cold call consumers without consent and/or know or should know that Realtors are doing so in violation of the TCPA, but fail to stop them anyway,” the complaint added.
In an emailed joint statement, NRT LLC and Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC said, “We received the lawsuit and are evaluating. As consistent with our policy, we will not comment further on pending litigation.”
The suit requests a jury trial and seeks class action status to represent two classes:
- Anyone in the U.S. in the last four years whom one of the defendants’ agents called on their cell phone “for substantially the same reason” the agents called Valdes, “using substantially the same dialing equipment” as they used to call Valdes, and for whom the defendants claim they got prior express written consent in the same way they say they got consent to call Valdes, or did not get prior express written consent.
- Anyone in the U.S. in the last four years whom one of the defendants’ agents called more than one time within any 12-month period whose phone number had been listed on the national Do Not Call registry for at least 30 days and called “for substantially the same reason” the agents called Valdes, and for whom the defendants claim they got prior express written consent in the same way they say they got consent to call Valdes, or did not get prior express written consent.
According to the complaint, these classes could have “hundreds, if not thousands of members.” The suit seeks a court order to stop NRT and Coldwell Banker from directing agents to violate the TCPA and statutory damages of a minimum of $500 to a maximum of $1,500 per violation.
“Defendants’ Realtors made these calls, negligently or willfully and knowingly. Defendants are vicariously liable for their Realtors calls because they directed and/or ratified the realtors’ actions,” the complaint said.