Written by: Rachel King, Owner of King Law Firm, Attorneys At Law Inc.
Abuse happens to Seniors too! Elder abuse is on the rise. Seniors are the targets of an increasing number of scams and frauds. And elder scams are becoming more sophisticated and are often shielded from plain view. Elder abuse comes in all shapes, sizes, and types; financial elder abuse is very common. Real estate is now center stage for financial elder abuse.
Real estate fraud is not new. And real estate has historically been targeted for elder abuse. New(ish) to the scene is using real estate’s dual agency powers as a way to defraud seniors. A dual agency is where a real estate agent represents both the Buyer and the seller.
Understanding how this happens is the first step to preventing you, your family, your loved one, or your friend from falling victim to financial devastation. The story begins…
Sally, 66 years old, lived by herself in a beautiful but dated home. It was the home she brought her children from the hospital too, the home she and her spouse raised their family; it was the home where she celebrated holidays, birthdays, celebrations, and loss. Her home was her heart. Last year, her spouse passed away; her children moved out of state, and as she looked around, she saw a house too large with a yard unkempt. It was time to sell and move closer to family.
Sally asked some friends and her neighbor and reached out to her children and church. She spoke with many realtors, all of who promised to maximize the purchase price and some who negotiated their commissions. Frankly, Sally was a bit overwhelmed with the process: selling, packing, moving across the country, and completely relocating.
Sally settled on a realtor she described as having a “kind face.” Her Realtor brought over forms for her to sign. So many forms, lots of legal language, all very official. Her Realtor explained the forms to Sally, and Sally trusted what she was told. She signed a listing agreement. She trusted her Realtor’s advice on the list price. She had hoped for more, but the Realtor assured her that at this price, there was already an interested buyer.
The next day Sally received an offer. Her Realtor said it was a great offer. Sally trusted her Realtor. Sally accepted the offer and signed the forms her Realtor said she needed to sign. One was a Dual Agency form. Her Realtor said this was necessary because the Realtor would be representing both the Buyer and Sally in the sale. Sally signed. The sale closed. Sally received a check.
At this point, it doesn’t seem unordinary. But here is what Sally didn’t know. Sally didn’t know her Realtor prior to the sale. Sally didn’t check the Realtor’s experience or references. Sally didn’t know that her Realtor had a fiduciary duty to represent her interests above all others in the sale. Sally didn’t know that her house was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars more than her Realtor told her. Sally didn’t know that the Realtor had a side deal with the Buyer.
Sally didn’t understand the forms she was asked to sign. Sally didn’t understand that she had a right to say no. Sally didn’t understand that her Realtor had a personal interest in representing her and the Buyer, which would result in a higher commission for the Realtor.
Sally didn’t tell anyone that she hadn’t received as much as she expected. Sally didn’t tell her children, friends, or family that she was worried about paying for the rest of her life. Sally didn’t say anything.
There are laws in place to protect seniors from abuse. Know them. Share them. If you suspect a senior is the victim of elder abuse, please contact law enforcement, adult protective services, or an attorney.
* The names and people are fictional and do not represent any person known to the author. The story is fictional and is based on a hypothetical scenario for illustration purposes only.
If you would like to set up a consultation, please call or text Rachel King at 951-834-7715.
www.thelawyerking.com Specializing in Elder Abuse Litigation, Family Law, Probate Litigation, Real Estate Litigation and Conservatorships.