Cases Dealing With Broker's Duty to Inspect the House

In Hopkins v. Fox & Lazo Realtors, 132 N.J. 426, 625 A.2d 1110 (N.J. 1993), the New Jersey Supreme Court addressed a broker's duty of care, specifically, whether that duty is the same as is imposed upon owners and possessors, or whether it is determined by general tort principles. The New Jersey court held that in the context of an open house, the relationship between a real estate broker and a potential buyer is substantial. Hopkins, 625 A.2d at 1117. Based upon that holding, the court determined that "a broker is under a duty to conduct a reasonable broker's inspection when such an inspection would comport with the customary standards governing the responsibilities and functions of real-estate brokers with respect to open-house tours." Hopkins, 625 A.2d at 1118. Thus, in limiting the duty to open houses, the court required a broker to conduct a reasonable inspection when such an inspection would be undertaken by a reasonable broker attempting to sell the house, and only when the broker had a reasonable opportunity to inspect the house. Hopkins, 625 A.2d at 1120. In Coughlin v. Harland L. Weaver, Inc., 103 Cal. App. 2d 602, 230 P.2d 141, 144 (Cal.App.--2nd Dist. 1951), the court recognized a realtor's duty to take reasonable care to discover the condition of the premises, and either make them safe or warn invitees of the dangerous conditions. The Whites rely upon this case as establishing the proposition that brokers are in possession of the property which they contract to sell or rent for the owner. In Jarr v. Seeco Construction Co., 35 Wn. App. 324, 666 P.2d 392, 393-94 (Wash.App.--Division 1 1983), the court held that "a possessor of land owes a duty of reasonable care for invitees with respect to dangerous conditions on the land, including 'an affirmative duty to discover dangerous conditions.'" Finally, in Turner v. Carneal, 156 Va. 889, 159 S.E. 72, 74 (Va. 1931), the appellate court held that the trial court's jury charge which stated a realtor is liable for injuries to prospective purchasers or tenants if that realtor is negligent while visiting the property was correct.