Realtors pan bill on dual-agent disclosure

Posted: Tuesday, April 22, 2003

ANCHORAGE - A bill that would change disclosure requirements when one agent or brokerage represents the buyer and seller in a real estate transaction has drawn sharp criticism from some members of the industry.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Norman Rokeberg, an Anchorage Republican, would change a law that says as soon as a brokerage firm is aware it represents both a buyer and a seller, it must obtain written consent from both parties to act as a "dual agent." The same would be true for an independent real estate agent.

Dual agents are forbidden to reveal any information that could hurt the bargaining power of either the seller or the buyer.

Rokeberg's bill would exempt commercial real estate deals from the requirements. It also would limit liability in all cases, commercial and residential, where an agent failed to make such disclosure in a timely fashion.

Rokeberg, a licensed independent real estate agent, said his bill would protect against lawsuits he said enrich the legal profession.

"This is an anti-lawyer bill and has nothing to do with consumer protection," Rokeberg said.

The bill's opponents, including the Alaska Association of Realtors, said it would be bad for the industry and is meant to protect two Anchorage-based agencies targeted in dual-agent lawsuits: Prudential Vista and Prudential Jack White.

PeggyAnn McConnochie, a commercial real estate agent at ACH Consulting in Juneau, said Rokeberg's proposal would be bad for the profession's image.

She also disagreed with the bill's definition of commercial transactions. Specifically, the bill exempts real estate that contains a building with four or more separate living units; has a purchase price of $100,000 or more in value for nonresidential use; or has a gross lease revenue that exceeds $12,000 a year.

"The gauges for when one enters into a commercial transaction are unrealistically low," McConnochie said.

The bill takes away the right to sue if an agent or brokerage does not make a dual agent disclosure as soon as they are aware of it. But it would not stop lawsuits in cases where the violation constitutes fraud, misrepresentation or deceit, and the person suffered a loss as a result.

Rokeberg's bill passed out of the House Labor and Commerce Committee last week and has been sent to the Judiciary Committee.

Howard Trickey, an attorney for Prudential Vista, testified in favor of the bill, arguing it would only affect suits based on "technical violations."

"This amendment would protect from frivolous lawsuits where there's no harm or damage done to anyone in the transaction and the only claim is that there was a failure to make a timely record of the disclosure," he said.

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