What happens if an item is broken during the property showing?

Who is responsible for replacing the item, what happens if the item is irreplaceable?

Although rare, accidents happen that can result in items being damaged during an open house, property showing or inspection.

A salesperson showing a property or overseeing a home inspection has an obligation to protect the seller’s property. Buyers also have an obligation to be respectful of the seller’s property and belongings when granted access to it. As such, it is expected that a buyer’s salesperson would take immediate action to notify a seller’s representative of any damage that occurred during a property visit.

Now, if the salesperson does not witness the damage and the buyer or inspector does not tell them about it, it’s possible that the homeowner will discover the damage after a visit. When damage occurs, or is discovered, the seller’s salesperson should be notified, as soon as possible, ideally in writing, and photos of the damage should be recorded. If the damage occurred during a home inspection, the inspection company should also be made aware.

For example, if a lamp shatters after being bumped off a nightstand, ideally the accident, with help from the salespeople, can be resolved between the parties. Of course, heirlooms that are irreplaceable will be trickier to resolve. As a seller, you may be disappointed about losing your lamp however, in the grand scheme of a home sale, many will concede that the cost of replacing a lamp is not worth jeopardizing the sale of the property.

When it comes to more substantial damage, the first thing you, as the seller, will want to do is to refer to your home insurance policy to see if it covers damage incurred during the time of the listing as a result of visits, open houses, etc. Depending on the damage and the scope your policy, you may want to make an insurance claim. If the damage is a result of negligence by a potential buyer, you may want to speak with your real estate lawyer to discuss your legal options.

Incidents that occur during a home inspection should be discussed with your salesperson. As we discussed in the columns about home inspection, a home inspector conducts a non-invasive, visual examination of the home and systems within it to identify issues or defects. Home inspectors typically carry insurance to cover mishaps that occur in the course of their work. If the inspector breaks something accidentally during an inspection, have your representative contact him or her first to discuss repairs and who will pay for them.

If you are selling a property, prevention is the best medicine. It is best to pack or store items of value, whether their value is monetary or sentimental. This eliminates the risk of them being tipped over by swinging coat tails or the jerk of an elbow. Irreplaceable or items of high monetary value, like watches, jewelry and collector artwork, are best stored in a safety deposit box or off the premises with a trusted friend or relative.

Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

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