real estate agent's fiduciary duty
May 10, 2022 4:14 PM   Subscribe

Very, very specific question about real estate transactions in New York State. Looking for input from people who work in real estate or have direct knowledge of real estate laws in New York.

A buyer's agent has a fiduciary responsibility towards the buyer during the process of purchasing a home.

Does their fiduciary responsibility still stand once the home has been purchased, the agent has received their commission, and the client/buyer is no longer an "active" client? Or at that point does their fiduciary responsibility cease to exist?

This question is about laws in New York State. If the laws are different in NYC, I am NOT looking for that information. I am specifically looking for information pertaining to Upstate New York.

I can't get more specific in public as this involves an active legal case, but if you need more info to answer, please feel free to send me a MeMail.

posted by nayantara to Law & Government (10 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: posters request -- frimble

Best answer: If you need specific legal advice in an actual legal case, you will unfortunately need to pay a lawyer for it. No one wants to accidentally become someone's counsel via giving free advice on a website.
posted by praemunire at 4:31 PM on May 10, 2022 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Fair enough, though I think I should clarify that this is just a question that I am curious about that doesn't actually pertain to the case, it's an idle question that came up adjacent to the legal situation. If that makes sense. The case has nothing to do with real estate.
posted by nayantara at 4:37 PM on May 10, 2022


Presumably, there was a contract for the buyer's agent arrangement. Check what it says in the contract.

Otherwise you are back to "Statute of Limitations"
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 5:58 PM on May 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Does their fiduciary responsibility still stand once the home has been purchased, the agent has received their commission, and the client/buyer is no longer an "active" client? Or at that point does their fiduciary responsibility cease to exist?

According to the law of no particular jurisdiction (i.e., the kind of basic doctrines taught in law school) that would be correct in most situations, almost by definition.

The fiduciary relationship (with its components of a duty of loyalty and care) is a feature of the broker-client relationship; like an attorney's duty is a feature of the attorney-client relationship. Some aspects of that duty may survive, but generally relating to what was done (or learned) within the scope of the relationship while it was active.

More than that would require more facts, and potentially application of NY law.

The statute of limitations doesn't define how long a particular duty lasted, but rather how long you have to sue on a breach after it occurs. The duration of liability is not the same as the underlying duty.

If you think the question you've posed isn't particular to conveying real estate, you've misunderstood something or have phrased it oddly. As asked, it certainly is.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:48 PM on May 10, 2022

This is highly contextual and fact-dependent. Only answer anyone could genuinely give is "maybe". There may not be a definite answer even from a lawyer consulting on your situation. Many circumstances and events could influence whether fiduciary duties persist, and the scope of those duties. I am not your lawyer, this is not legal advice.
posted by lookoutbelow at 9:05 PM on May 10, 2022

Best answer: If this is an actual situation you're unhappy about, but not involving enough money/loss for you to have taken it to a lawyer already, try the ethics complaint department of the relevant area real estate association. They'll at least hear you out and advise on making a formal complaint.
posted by michaelh at 10:14 PM on May 10, 2022

Response by poster: I definitely understand that the question I've asked is about real estate, but the question came up in the context of a friend's small claims case against a general contractor and has absolutely no bearing on the case, it's just something my friends and I have been spitballing about and we were curious. I am reluctant to post more context than that, but I hope that is sufficient to explain that I am not looking for free legal advice on the internet about an active court case related to real estate, because the case has nothing to do with real estate or realtors and we are not looking for actionable information pertaining to real estate law in this case.
posted by nayantara at 4:52 AM on May 11, 2022

Best answer: (Just so you know, the problem is less [directly] the "free" than that giving legal advice may under certain circumstances be interpreted to create an attorney-client relationship, which then makes the hapless Mefite your fiduciary!)
posted by praemunire at 7:18 AM on May 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

If you want to look further into the concepts you're curious about, try searching for "agency and fiduciary duty" on Google Scholar. That should surface plenty of law review articles.

You OP said it pertains to an active legal case, which sounds like its the one with the building contractor. It is a common error by laypeople to attempt to freely transpose concepts from one area of law to another by analogy despite there being separate statutory regimes for them.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:27 AM on May 11, 2022

Best answer: (So if discussing the actual case has made you intellectually interested in this, great, but keep it in that lane.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:34 AM on May 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

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