Can a listing agent deal with a buyer who has fired his buyer’s agent?

QUESTION: My clients accepted an offer to sell their home to a buyer. During the due diligence period, the buyer’s agent informed me that the buyer wished to terminate the deal, and forwarded me a signed Standard Form 390-T. Shortly after I received the 390-T, however, the buyer began calling my office to tell me that the buyer’s agent no longer works for him and that he still wishes to proceed with the deal. Over the last two days, my office has told the buyer to work through his agent, but he will not listen. He continues to call and insist that the buyer’s agent not be involved any further in the transaction. In the meantime, the buyer’s agent has no idea what is going on and is now sending me impatient emails because I have not yet returned a signed copy of the 390-T. My client wants to continue with the deal and has not signed the termination. What should I do?

ANSWER: Article 16 of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics provides that “Realtors® shall not engage in any practice or take any action inconsistent with exclusive representation or exclusive brokerage relationship agreements that other Realtors® have with clients.” Standard of Practice 16-13 further explains that under Article 16, “[a]ll dealings . . . with buyer/tenants who are subject to an exclusive agreement shall be carried on with the client’s representative or broker, and not with the client, except with the consent of the client’s representative or broker or except where such dealings are initiated by the client.”

In this case, your foremost responsibility is to your client. If your client wants to continue to deal with the buyer, then the Code of Ethics would allow you to do so if the buyer is initiating contact with your office. You should, however, be sure to let the buyer know that you only represent the seller; and that you will not be able to represent the buyer’s interests in the transaction. (See Case #16-13 of Interpretations of the Code of Ethics) Since you do not owe any duty of confidentiality to the buyer, you can let the buyer’s agent know what is going on, and explain to him or her why you have not yet returned a signed copy of the Form 390-T.

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