Dear Ray,

I recently sold a home that I purchased to renovate and sell. Detailed architects plans were prepared, but the finished project was a scaled-down version of the plans. 

I asked my agent to pass along the plans to the buyer, stipulating that the plans should not be made an exhibit of the sale documents since the plans were different from the finished work. Against my wishes, my agent included the plans as part of the sale documents, having the buyer initial them. 

I felt powerless to do anything at the time. The sale has since closed, but I’m baffled why my agent disobeyed my instructions.

— M.C. 

Like you, I’m baffled over what might have prompted your agent to disobey your explicit instructions. By disobeying your direct instructions, your agent may have violated her duty to you, according to state law. 

The Law of Real Estate pamphlet (which your agent should have provided prior to your signing the listing contract) states that it is the duty of an agent “to be loyal to the seller by taking no action that is adverse or detrimental to the seller’s interest in a transaction.”

On the other hand, the Law of Real Estate pamphlet also states that an agent has a responsibility “to disclose all existing material facts known by the licensee and not apparent or readily ascertainable to a party.” 

Perhaps your agent believed she had an obligation to disclose details about the renovation of the home because you had failed to do so. (If you provided a completed “Seller’s Disclosure Statement” along with the architect’s plans, it’s likely you satisfied your disclosure requirements.) 

I’m concerned that by having the plans initialed and made an attachment to the contract, a buyer might assume that the home was remodeled according to the plans. I speculate this is your main concern. 

If, during the process of the sale, you provided the buyer with full disclosure and the buyer knows the finished renovation is different from the plans, then you’ve done what a reasonable person would do. The buyer would at least have an opportunity to conduct an inspection of the home prior to closing the sale, if you provided full disclosure about the renovation. 

Since there are some very serious issues involved here and potential future liability, my best advice is that you seek an attorney that specializes in real estate law. Besides not being qualified to offer you legal advice, I have too little information to offer more than speculation at this juncture. 

Agent’s motivation?

What I find most troubling is the apparent lack of communication between you and your agent. I fault the agent most, as she should have initiated a conversation with you prior to taking an action that was in conflict with your instructions. 

If your agent felt there was a lack of disclosure or felt you were withholding material facts about the house, she should have addressed that issue with you directly, then worked to resolve the matter.

The issue that I keep coming back to is that your agent disobeyed your instructions. It’s possible your agent was being pressured by the buyer or the buyer’s agent to include the plans as an attachment to the purchase-and-sale agreement. Or perhaps your agent felt that she was acting in your best interest. 

It’s also possible your agent was motivated by self-interest to promote the success of the transaction, over your wishes. That is, she may have been working to ensure the sale would make it to closing so she would be paid her commission, putting your interests second to her own. 

You have some options available to you. You could start by contacting your agent’s managing broker. The managing broker can meet with your agent and get to the bottom of the matter. The managing broker would appreciate hearing about your experience with one of his or her agents. And providing you with an explanation isn’t too much to ask. 

If you believe your agent acted inappropriately or you’ve been damaged by the actions of your agent, you can file a complaint with the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL). The DOL may take disciplinary actions. Go to this website to download the complaint form:www.dol.wa.gov/forms/formscomplaint.html.

RAY AKERS is a licensed Realtor for Lake & Co. Real Estate in Seattle. Send your questions to ray@akerscargill.com or call (206) 722-4444.