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Expert Witness: Lending A Hand In Real Estate Cases

MELBOURNE — “Do I need an expert witness in my real estate case?” This is an important question, and its answer may surprise you. It is simply, “Yes.”

As in many legal cases, the facts in a civil real estate case can be mired in the standards and practices of the industry and it is vital for your success that you and your clients can successfully navigate these facts with confidence.

In most civil real estate cases, there is an element of fraud, fraudulent inducement, misrepresentation, or a number of other violations of F.S. chapter 475. The most common of these include violations of F.S. chapter 475.278, for example, which deals with authorized brokerage relationships, and F.S. chapter 61J2, dealing with the rules. In these cases, the most important testimony given by a expert is on F.S. 475.278, because this chapter clearly defines the duties of a broker for consumers protection.

For example, Florida has a clear presumption of transactional brokerage, unless otherwise provided in writing at the onset of any real estate brokerage transaction. A Transaction Broker Relationship can be best defined as providing a limited form of representation to a buyer, a seller, or both in a real estate transaction but does not represent either in a fiduciary capacity or as a single agent. The duties of the real estate licensee in this limited form of representation include the following:

(a) Dealing honestly and fairly;
(b) Accounting for all funds;
(c) Using skill, care, and diligence in the transaction;
(d) Disclosing all known facts that materially affect the value of residential real property and are not readily observable to the buyer;
(e) Presenting all offers and counteroffers in a timely manner, unless a party has previously directed the licensee otherwise in writing;
(f) Limited confidentiality, unless waived in writing by a party. This limited confidentiality will prevent disclosure that the seller will accept a price less than the asking or listed price, that the buyer will pay a price greater than the price submitted in a written offer, of the motivation of any party for selling or buying property, that a seller or buyer will agree to financing terms other than those offered, or of any other information requested by a party to remain confidential.

An expert witness can most often be effective in bringing these clear standards to light, as quite often the broker hides information that effects the value of real estate, to fraudulently induce a contract. In addition, most brokers in many of these civil cases have poor record keeping habits and do not comply with paragraph (a) of this section: dealing fairly an honestly with all parties. In addition to the standards of the industry, if you are a Realtor, you must abide by the National association of realtors Code of Ethics.

As the former Director of the Division of Real Estate, having served 8 years on the Florida Real Estate Commission, and sat as a Quasi Judicial official on over 3000 Disciplinary Cases, my expertise in such cases has assisted in the solution of such cases. In addition, I am a former senior Real estate instructor for the Florida Association of Realtors, and have 38 years of real estate experience. (See resume at www.steelegroupllc.com).

If you are concerned that you may benefit from having and industry expert’s testimony, I will be more than happy to discuss the individual elements of your case.

Jason Steele, Real Estate Expert Witness, is a contributor to The Florida Law Journal. He can be reached at 321-258-8993.

View the full article: http://www.thefloridalawjournal.com/2011/05/expert-witness/