Letters & Interviews

1. Letter in Miami Herald  (Realtor ethics)
2. Letter in National Association of Realtors Magazine about broker fiduciary
3. Inteview from WLRN Miami public radio report about sinkholes.
4. Interview from CBS-12 (West Palm Beach) news feature about sinkholes.
5. Letter in National Association of Realtors Magazine about disclosure paper trail.

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Letters to the editor

Realtor rejects writer's
'poison pen' accusations


On June 23, Business Monday published a poison-pen letter written by a bitter person who wishes to blame all of America's current real-estate discomforts on collusion between mortgage brokers, appraisers, and especially Realtors, who apparently convinced millions of buyers to pay too much for their homes.

His letter must not go unanswered. For about 15 years, I've served on both the grievance and professional standards committees for the South Broward Board of Realtors, and in all that time, I never saw one complaint from buyers stating that their Realtor caused them to overpay.

And, as an expert witness in disputes and lawsuits involving Realtor ethics and malpractice, I received only one inquiry over the years on this issue, and I referred the attorney to a forensic appraiser for help.

Despite the writer's dark claims, nearly all Realtors are very concerned about maintaining ethical and honest standards in our conduct. After all, we have reputations to protect.

As for those few Realtors who put their personal interests above duty, Florida statutes, and the Code of Ethics that we are all sworn to uphold, well, there are established procedures to confront and discipline them. It's not pretty when the Board of Realtors, the Real Estate Commission, and a jury all find against a Realtor....
 

                       -- Larry Lowenthal
                       Realtor at C21 Rose Realty West, Cooper City


National REALTOR Magazine / January 2014
Home > News & Commentary > Letters

“Off-MLS is Off-Base” by Robert Bailey is seriously flawed because the writer bases his argument on a false premise. He writes, “Here’s why this matters. Real estate professionals owe a fiduciary duty to the seller.”

That’s a blanket statement that is true in some parts of the country but untrue in others, such as Florida and Colorado, where transaction brokerage is the default and under which there is no fiduciary duty to either the seller or buyer. Mr. Bailey needs to start over if he wants to prove his case.

             
—Larry Lowenthal
             Century 21– Rose Realty West, Cooper City, Fla. 

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WLRN.org, Public Radio & Television in South Florida

What Florida Homeowners Should Know About Sinkholes
By Tricia Woolfenden

(Excerpted from a longer story)

South-Florida-based forensic realtor, Larry Lowenthal has in the past been retained as an expert witness on sinkhole-related lawsuits in the Tampa area. He likens the ground in that part of the state to "Swiss cheese" but doesn't foresee sinkholes as an immediate threat on "this coast."

"I don't see it as having an impact on this half of the state," said Lowenthal, who has been active in the Florida real estate business since 1990. "They do occur here, but they are pretty rare."
 

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Florida Sinkholes 

CBS12 News, West Palm Beach
Excerpted from a longer story by Lauren Hills 

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- In recent months, Florida has felt the damage and devastation of sinkholes.  Most remember scene from the Tampa area in February when Jeffrey Bush, 37, disappeared after the ground opened up underneath his home, and a sinkhole swallowed him in his bedroom while he slept. His body has never been found.

There was another massive sinkhole that formed right behind a family's house in central Florida in 2012. That family was okay, but they were forced out of their home.

Larry Lowenthal, realtor and sinkhole expert, said more than a thousand sinkholes form every year in Florida. They occur when underground water eats away at limestone, leaving crevices and holes in the rock.

Eventually, the ground above collapses and tumbles into the void. But by and large, they don't have the impact of the major ones that make the news.

Lowenthal said in south Florida, they're not all too common.

"The subsoil is totally different, the geology is different, it's not the same throughout the state," he said.

 A map of from the state's Geological Sinkhole Database shows where sinkholes occur most frequently. They're most common in counties like Pasco, Hernando, and Pinellas.

"It's a swiss cheese effect," said Lowenthal.  He said they're naturally occurring in that part of the state and many have been filled with water.

"With the increasing acidity of water which gets underground, it eats the limestone faster," said Lowenthal. ...

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National REALTOR Magazine / March 2015

Property Defects: You Can’t Be Too Careful

Attorney Ronald Rossi provided some good tips about how agents can avoid disclosure problems related to property defects (“Property Defects and You"). However, he did not go far enough. He correctly states that it is important to tell buyers about known defect issues and to document in writing that you did so.

However, his suggestion that you can rely on e-mail to accomplish this, “so you both have a record of it,” falls short of the standard of care expected of professionals.

How do you respond when the buyer says, “I never got that e-mail” or “I found it a month later in my spam folder”?

The best practice is to do what brokers constantly tell their agents: Write up a disclosure about your concern and get the buyers to sign it. Leave a copy with the buyers and make sure that the home inspector gets one and acknowledges receipt. Put a copy of the disclosure in your file and the original in the office file, and you have a real chance of warding off a lawsuit for damages on the matter if things don’t turn out well for the buyers. This will also help you if the buyers file a complaint charging violations of Articles 1 and 2 of the REALTORS® Code of Ethics. You can’t be too careful. As Rossi says, suits happen!

                       —Larry Lowenthal
                        Century 21 Rose Realty West, Cooper City, Fla.

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Working with Defendants, Plaintiffs, and their Attorneys since 2003.

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