Restricting Access to Showing Properties During Public Open Houses can be an Ethics, Fair Housing and Regulatory Violation.
WHAT NOT TO DO EXAMPLE #1: Public Open House – Sunday (date) from 1-5pm (address). Buyers unaccompanied by a licensee will be considered working with the listing agent as a “dual agent” if they want to see the house.
WHAT NOT TO DO EXAMPLE #2: Public Open House – Sunday (date) from 1-5pm (address). Buyers accompanied by a licensee will not be allowed access to the listing during the public open house. Buyers/licensee must make an appointment to see the property at another time.
Establishing procedures for conducting a public open house begins with a discussion with the Seller. Restrictions that do not allow ALL prospective buyers to attend and gain access to the listing during a public open house can possibly be an ethics violation, a fair housing issue*, and a regulatory violation for both the agent and the Seller, not to mention that it could cause the Seller to lose a qualified buyer, all of which must be made clear to the Seller.
Public open houses are just that – PUBLIC. Restrictions that limit who can attend the Public open house can lead to a fair housing violation, and/or an ethics complaint, and/or a violation of NJREC regulations.
- If the Seller wants more control of the number of people accessing the property during the open house timeframe, then the listing Realtor should advise the Seller that the open house can be conducted with appointments only and their advertising should explicitly reflect that.
- NO listing agent in New Jersey can require a buyer to work with them as a dual agent. If the Buyer wants his/her own representation, they have a right to it under the NJREC regulations. A Buyer cannot be forced into working with the listing agent in a dual agency capacity.\
- Buyers accompanied by their own agent should not be treated differently because they are already represented by another licensee. Cooperation is almost always in the Sellers best interest and is required by ARTICLE 3 of the Realtor Code of Ethics, which addresses a REALTORS’® ethical responsibilities regarding cooperation and access to listed properties, unless the Seller chooses otherwise and so instructs the listing agent in writing.
- ARTICLE 1 of the Realtor Code of Ethics is crystal clear, we are ethically bound to always Protect and Promote the interests of our CLIENTS. Always ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing in my client’s best interest or more so in mine?” and always be sure to discuss any practice with your Clients before engaging in them, so that your Client can make the decision as to how to proceed.
*All agents should have copies of the NJ Attorney General Memorandum on Housing Discrimination Laws, with them at all times, and a copy should be given to all REALTOR® clients.