Estate Agents And Security – Vendors At Risk

Peter Mericka B.A., LL.BOPINION
by Peter Mericka B.A., LL.B
Real Estate Consumer Advocate
Real Estate Lawyer
Qualified Practising Conveyancer Victoria
Director Lawyers Real Estate Pty Ltd
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On 4 December, 2005 we ran a posting titled “Agents As Security Goons – The “Open House” Of The Future?”.

The issue remains topical, with an article appearing in the Herald-Sun on 10 January, 2006, titled “Revenge Plot Against Agent – Woman cleans up at open inspections”. The news story, appearing at page 3, states “A woman has admitted robbing 25 houses that were open for inspection.” and that she would choose “.houses in wealthy areas that usually had little security – during open for inspection times.”

We have pointed out that estate agents are not licensed to perform the role of “security guard” or “crowd controller” when escorting visitors through a vendor’s home. We have also argued that estate agents are loathe to confront or accuse suspects, fearing that doing so may damage their reputation and that of the “open house” concept.

Some discreet enquiries regarding this particular incident reveal that police were not alerted to the crimes by any real estate agents. Details of suspicious behaviour came to light only after police had approached a number of agents during their investigations.

According to Enzo Raimondo, CEO of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria, the REIV has addressed the issue of security at private homes, but in our opinion the steps taken have more to do with public relations than any real attempt to protect consumers and their property.

The security problem is not confined to “open house” situations. Whenever an estate agent is permitted to escort visitors through a property in the absence of the owner there is a high risk. If the REIV and its members are to take genuine steps to protect vulnerable consumers and their property they must address the following issues:

  • Insurance – Consumers must be made aware that insurers may refuse to meet claims where visitors have been brought into the home by an estate agent in the absence of the vendor.
  • Responsibility – Estate agents should be required to accept responsibility for valuables in a home where the estate agent provides access to visitors in the absence of the vendor.
  • Licensing – Estate agents should be required to hold relevant licences when assuming responsibilities similar to those of crowd controllers and security guards.

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