Question: Regarding your July 22, 2023, column titled “When decorum goes out the door, the results can make tempers flare” on The Mercury News and East Bay Times websites:
You wrote about where and how customers can complain about real estate agents. We bought our first house, and the air conditioner does not work. We did know this before the home sale closed. But the realty agents agreed that the home warranty company would cover the broken air conditioner. So last week we filed a claim. The home warranty representative requested the home inspection report. We complied with their request.
This week, the home warranty company denied our claim. The rejection cited by the home inspector stated the air conditioner was “past its useful life.” The rejection also noted that “pre-existing conditions are not covered.” How can we lodge a complaint to have the colluding realty agents pay for the air conditioning?
A: Be careful about the word colluding. Merriam-Webster’s online definition is “to work together secretly, especially in order to do something illegal or dishonest.” You, as homebuyers, were party to the scheme. Full stop. “I relied on my agent” is the disgruntled homebuyers’ go-to statement in lawsuits. That line won’t help you. Merriam-Webster’s online definition of a scheme is “a clever, often underhanded means to achieve an end.” Any ombudsman, mediator, arbitrator or real estate attorney will see your complicity. It is on full display. Dispute-resolution professionals hold disdain for the unethical. You’ll have to address the agents’ dishonest leadership with their supervising sales managers.
Home warranty companies provide a valuable service to real estate professionals and their clients. It is a perfect partnership. Fixing broken appliances on a holiday weekend or during rainy spells is their stock and trade. Agents abusing this business model through deceit are unethical and unskilled. They must be punished or purged. A professional real estate agent uses expertise to deal with broken appliances and deferred maintenance.
I asked a Silicon Valley home-warranty rep how common the dubious old practice of tricking home warranty companies into fixing or replacing broken appliances is, and she replied, “Oh! It happens all the time!”
Alarm bells should ring when real estate professionals or consumers hear unethical suggestions from a real estate agent. That is a pivotal moment. It is time to deal with the wayward agent. Or seek a skilled replacement.
For Housing Market Data in your area, visit my webpage for trends here. Do you have questions about home buying or selling? Full-service Realtor Pat Kapowich is a Certified Trust and Probate Specialist, Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager and career-long consumer protection advocate. He is based in his hometown of Sunnyvale, California. Office: 408-245-7700; Broker# 00979413 Pat@SiliconValleyBroker.com