In today’s technology-driven age, home surveillance systems have become integral to many households, offering enhanced security and peace of mind. But for potential homebuyers, this can bring an unexpected twist to the home shopping experience. While touring homes, cameras could capture homebuyer’s reactions, comments, and discussions, and homesellers can face legal risks that could lead to civil and criminal liability.
So how can REALTORS® help clients on both ends of a real estate transaction stay compliant? With the ever-growing use of property surveillance, keep these best practices listed in the National Association of REALTORS® Window To The Law in mind:
- Address a seller’s use of surveillance devices in the listing agreement by requiring sellers to disclose any devices, warning them of the legal risks associated with audio and video surveillance, and requiring indemnification for any unlawful surveillance by the seller.
- Recommend sellers provide notice of property surveillance, even when notice isn’t required.
- Disclose any known property surveillance to other participants in the MLS; while Greater Chattanooga REALTORS®’s MLS does not currently require disclosure upon submission of a listing, other MLSs might. So, sellers, talk with your agent. And REALTORS®, talk with your managing broker about any office policies or best practices in this regard.
- Remind sellers of their fair housing obligations. Video surveillance can reveal a lot about prospective buyers. If you suspect a seller is using video footage to violate the law, document your concerns in writing, and depending on the circumstances, consider removing yourself from the transaction.
- Inform buyers of the potential for surveillance devices during showings and any known devices in writing.
- Counsel buyers to assume they are always being recorded and avoid discussing their interest while at the property.
- Advise buyers against taking pictures during a showing and to avoid posting photos online, unless they have the seller's permission to do so.
While some states like TN and GA have exceptions for property owners, in most states it would be inappropriate for an absent homeowner to press record and capture a conversation between a buyer and their agent without either their express consent or their implied consent through, for example, the posting of a conspicuous notice of the recording.
Practicing these tips is key to not only helping your clients navigate these issues, but to protecting you from legal liability. Being mindful of home surveillance ensures a more guarded approach, protecting your privacy and your leverage in purchasing. Whether you’re hoping to lease, purchase, or sell, utilizing the expertise of a REALTOR® is the best way to protect yourself and your investment. REALTORS work for their clients and communities every day. That’s Who We R®.