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If somebody willingly invites people in during an open house, what happens when there are damages to the property? Does the realtor showing the house have any responsibility?

A bit of background to elaborate...

I had an open house on my place yesterday. I was away from the property during the whole time. I then got a call from my realtor saying that there wasn't much interest. When I came back home after the open house (nobody was there), I ran into the following:

  • Somebody had loosened one of the pipes under my sink, and water was leaking onto the floor
  • On my white carpeting, it looks like somebody had spilled a can of orange soda
  • The cabinet in my bathroom had been bent backwards in an odd angle, and now appears to be broken.
  • I found a broken picture frame of mine in the trash can.
  • And by far the most surprising, somebody took a dump on my bed. I kid you not.

I called my realtor and complained, but he said he has no idea what I'm talking about and is positive that didn't happen when he was there. My suspicion is that one of my neighbors (who is also trying to sell their place) came in during my open house to purposely sabotaged my home to make theirs look more desirable. But I have no proof at all. The police came out and took a look, but they said they had no definitive proof that any act of vandalism had been committed, and my realtor didn't take down everyone's name, so they couldn't and wouldn't go through the effort of tracking down more information.

So is this legally my fault because I let strangers into my house? Or does my realtor hold any sort of legal responsibility.

  • Do you have a contract or listing agreement with the realtor? Does it say anything about liability during open houses? – BlueDogRanch Feb 27 '17 at 4:15
  • I signed some papers, but they I gave it back to my realtor. In hindsight, I should have at least made a copy of it. – Hans Moleman Feb 27 '17 at 4:30
  • Get a copy and see what is in it. But we can't offer legal advice here; sounds like you might want to ask a lawyer what you can do. – BlueDogRanch Feb 27 '17 at 5:11
  • 1
    Did you miss the appointment because you had to pedal up the mountain on your bike without brakes and bent wheels?bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/45402/… Or were you still looking for your glasses in a vat in the chocolate factory? (post deleted). Perhaps everything is fine now, and the new boss, whose daughter you dated and dumped, and the manager who you spoofed with a prank video let you work three hours less a day, so you can manage your 5 hour bike commute? – user11101 Mar 2 '17 at 16:26
  • For more great Hans posts, see workplace.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4410/… – Mawg says reinstate Monica Aug 13 '19 at 6:53
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The fault lies with the people who vandalized your house. In general, whoever causes you damage is responsible (liable) for that damage. This is true whether or not you are selling your house, having guests over, letting a friend stay over for a night or a week, or whatever the circumstance is. Insurance is there to cover many such losses: if a friend trashes your house in a drunken rage, your insurance will cover the damage, but they will invoke the doctrine of subrogation whereby they get to go after the friend, and you have to cooperate.

In a situation where nobody has a clue who did the damage, the only possible way that the agent has any responsibility is if they were negligent in their duty to take care of the house. For your specific case, you'd need to discuss the forensic facts with your attorney. But generally speaking, the issue would be whether the agent had breached his/her professional duty of care, which is best understood as comparing his actions (or lack) compares to actions of other professionals in the same circumstance. If a house has 3 or 4 sets of visitors simultaneously, it is really not possible for an agent to supervise all of them at once. So the question would be, was this the result of one concentrated vandalism attack, or serial vandalism. The former is more in the realm of "stuff happens", and the latter is indicative of an endemic lack of care.

To repeat, the fault lies with the miscreants who vandalized your house. You, or your insurance company, may nevertheless have to bear the financial burden. Your insurance company will certainly have an interest in spreading responsibility to the realty firm, if warranted by the facts.

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