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You might find yourself considering legal action against your real estate agent, whether due to nondisclosure, misrepresentation, or breach of fiduciary duty. 

This comprehensive FAQ guide addresses everything from understanding the grounds for suing your real estate agent to the specifics of initiating a lawsuit, ensuring you are well-informed about your rights and possible legal avenues.

What Are Examples of the Most Common Reasons Why People Sue a Real Estate Agent?

Common reasons for suing a real estate agent typically include:

  1. Breach of fiduciary duty. Agents must act in their client’s best interest, but failure to do so can lead to lawsuits, especially if the agent acts puts their interests above those of the client or discloses confidential information.

Example Scenario: An agent represents both the buyer and the seller in a transaction but fails to disclose this dual agency arrangement. The agent then prioritizes the seller’s interests, resulting in the buyer paying significantly above market value.

  1. Misrepresentation. This occurs when an agent knowingly provides false information or omits important facts about the property.

Example Scenario: A real estate agent tells a buyer that the home they are interested in has a new roof when, in fact, the roof is over ten years old and in need of repair, leading to unexpected expenses for the buyer after purchase.

  1. Negligence. Failing to perform due diligence, such as not inspecting the property properly or overlooking important legal documents, can lead to legal action.

Example Scenario: An agent fails to investigate pending zoning changes that would negatively impact the property’s value. The buyer completes the purchase and later finds out they cannot use the property as intended, leading to a financial loss.

  1. Fraud. Intentionally deceiving clients for personal gain, like manipulating property prices or hiding property flaws.

Example Scenario: An agent manipulates a property’s listed price by colluding with an appraiser to inflate the value, causing the buyer to overpay significantly. The truth emerges when the buyer attempts to refinance and learns the value is much lower.

These issues underscore the importance of due diligence and the potential risks involved in real estate transactions.

How Long Do You Have to Sue a Real Estate Agent? 

The time limit to sue a real estate agent, known as the statute of limitations, depends on the specific legal claims involved. For example, in California the following deadlines apply: 

  • Breach of contract. You typically have 4 years if the contract was in writing or 2 years if it was oral. 
  • Fraud. The limit is 3 years from when the fraud was discovered. 
  • Negligence. You generally have 2 years from the incident to file a lawsuit. 

It’s important to consult with a real estate attorney to discuss the specifics of your case and ensure that you meet any legal deadlines.

What Sort of Damages Can You Claim in a Lawsuit Against a Realtor? 

In a lawsuit against a realtor, the types of damages that can be claimed typically include: 

  • Compensatory damages. These cover the actual losses suffered due to the realtor’s actions, such as financial losses from a property purchased based on misrepresentation. 
  • Punitive damages. Although less common, these may be awarded in cases of egregious fraud or deceit to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar conduct. 
  • Consequential damages. These are awarded for additional losses that result indirectly from the realtor’s actions, like lost opportunity costs. 
  • Legal fees and costs. In some cases, plaintiffs may also recover the costs associated with the lawsuit, including attorney fees. 

It’s important to discuss your specific situation with a real estate attorney to determine what types of damages may apply in your case.

Can You Sue a Real Estate Agent for Lying? 

Yes, you can sue a real estate agent for lying if their misrepresentation led to your financial loss or other damages. This typically falls under fraud or misrepresentation in legal terms. 

To pursue such a case, it’s crucial to prove that the real estate agent knowingly provided false information upon which you relied to make a decision, resulting in harm or loss. Consulting with a real estate attorney can help determine the viability of your case and guide you through the legal process.

Do Buyers Generally Sue Their Own Real Estate Agent or the Agent for the Seller? 

Buyers can sue either their own real estate agent or the seller’s agent, depending on the circumstances that led to the lawsuit. If the buyer’s own agent failed in their duty—such as by misleading the buyer, failing to disclose important information, or not acting in the buyer’s best interests—they might be the target of a lawsuit. 

Conversely, if the seller’s agent committed fraud or misrepresented the property, the buyer could also have grounds to sue them. In either scenario, the lawsuit would center on proving that the agent’s actions directly harmed the buyer.

How Much Can You Sue a Real Estate Agent For? 

The amount you can sue a real estate agent for depends on the specific damages you suffered due to their actions. This includes compensatory damages for actual financial losses, consequential damages for indirect losses, and possibly punitive damages if the agent’s actions were particularly fraudulent or malicious. 

The total amount would be determined based on the extent of financial loss and other harms caused by the agent’s misconduct. An experienced real estate attorney can help you assess the value of your claim and the potential damages you could recover.

Can You Sue a Real Estate Agent for Nondisclosure? 

Yes, you can sue a real estate agent for nondisclosure if they fail to disclose known defects or legal issues related to the property that affect its value or your decision to purchase. This falls under the failure to perform their duties and can lead to claims of negligence or fraud, depending on the circumstances. 

To succeed in such a lawsuit, you would need to prove that the agent had knowledge of the issue and that their failure to disclose it directly resulted in harm or financial loss to you.

What Are Some Examples of Broker Lawsuits Involving Claims of Nondisclosure? 

Here are some examples of broker lawsuits involving claims of nondisclosure: 

  • Faulty foundations. A buyer sued their real estate agent after discovering, post-purchase, that the home had significant foundational issues that the agent knew but did not disclose. 
  • Mold problems. An agent failed to disclose the history of severe mold infestation in a house, leading to health issues and costly remediation for the new homeowner, who then sued for damages. 
  • Illegal constructions. A buyer sued the selling agent after finding out that additions to the property were made without proper permits, impacting the property’s value and legality. 
  • Neighborhood nuisances. The property owner was not informed of a planned commercial development nearby that would significantly increase traffic and noise, affecting the property’s livability and resale value. 

In each case, the real estate agent’s failure to disclose known defects or legal issues led to financial and personal losses, forming the basis for legal action.

What Kind of Lawyer Do You Need to Sue a Realtor?

To sue a realtor, you would typically need a lawyer with a background in real estate law. These attorneys have the expertise to navigate the complexities of real estate transactions and disputes, including breach of contract, fraud, and misrepresentation. Additionally, it’s beneficial if the lawyer has experience with litigation, as these cases can sometimes lead to court proceedings. 

I am a real estate attorney well-equipped to handle lawsuits against realtors. My practice focuses on various aspects of real estate law, including disputes involving breaches of duty by realtors.

Wrapping It Up

Navigating real estate transactions can sometimes reveal issues only a qualified attorney can address effectively. If you face discrepancies or disputes with your real estate agent, seeking professional advice is crucial. Sinai Law Firm has extensive experience in real estate law and can provide the guidance and representation you need to resolve your concerns. 

Contact us today to help ensure your interests are protected and to discuss any potential legal actions you might consider.

Avi Sinai Avi Sinai started to practice law in 2011, focusing on business and real estate transactions. The driving force behind the firm’s success is a relentless pursuit creating value for our clients. Our core belief is that clients deserve a positive return on their legal fees. Avi successfully represented clients in litigation, multiple trials, countless mediations, and administrative hearings.