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Suppose I sign a lease for an apartment and also pay the agent who showed me the apartment the fee they require. I ask the agent if I can move in a day early and she gives me the phone number of the current tenant so that I can make arrangements. The current tenant is very obliging and says I can move in three days early. I reserve a moving van, hire movers, ask my friends to help, and tell the couple taking our old place that they can move early as well. It turns out that the real estate agent gave me the wrong phone number and that the real tenants can't vacate early. Thus the money I paid to reserve the van and hire movers is lost, and everything is a mess. Is this negligence? Am I entitled to damages? Putting me in touch with the previous tenants seems like a part of the duty of a real estate agent.(I live in Massachusetts)

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While it is certainly not a typical case, there might be a claim for negligent misrepresentation.

In a negligent misrepresentation case, someone communicates something to you in the course of their business or occupation, which is not true, when the person communicating it could have known the truth had he exercised reasonable care, when it was communicated with an intent or understanding that you would rely upon the information, and that false statement was relied upon and as a result caused you damages.

In this case the misrepresentation would be that the people you were given the number of were the current tenants of the place you had rented.

Damages would be limited to those that are foreseeably a result of the misstatement, but the kind of damages you suffered seem to fit.

The real estate agent's best defense would probably be that you were contributorily negligent by not confirming that address of the person you called when you made arrangements.

  • MA does follow the Restatement (Second) of Torts (1977) Section 552, defining "negligent misrepresentation" substantially as you summarized. Also, if the agent is carrying on its business under a license, there might also be a claim of an additional misrepresentation, i.e., that its conduct conforms to the accepted canons of professional conduct in that profession. Under MGL ch. 93A, it may be an "unfair and deceptive business practice" to even attempt to deny liability for professional misconduct when they should have known they were liable. – Upnorth Aug 22 '17 at 2:37

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