Industry professionals must obey all of their client’s lawful instructions. This aligns with an industry professional’s fiduciary responsibility to their clients. Obedience to your client is so important that clients can instruct their industry professional to forego other fiduciary responsibilities owed to them.
At any point during your contract, your client can instruct you to do something (or not do something) on their behalf. This could be as harmless and straightforward as adjusting an offer amount in a counter offer, or as big as waiving one of your fiduciary responsibilities. It is your obligation to obey any instruction given by your client, as long as they are lawful and do not go against the Real Estate Act or Rules.
Sounds simple, but there are situations where you might believe that obeying the instruction is not in your client’s best interest. You can certainly tell them what you think, and you can suggest they proceed in a different way, but ultimately, they’re the client and you need to follow their instructions as long as they’re lawful.
Examples of lawful client instructions that might not be in their best interest:
- A client specifically states they do not want to see any offers below a certain amount. Typically, you’d be obligated to share all information related to the sale with your client. But if they told you not to bother them with offers that are below a certain amount, you must obey.
- There is a conflict of interest because you know the buyer, and are representing the seller. You do not have a significant relationship with the buyer, but there is still the potential for a conflict. After disclosing the conflict and all details related to it, your client still wishes to move forward without seeking outside, independent advice, and the conflict isn’t so severe that transaction brokerage becomes inappropriate. You can proceed.
- Your client is in a hurry to sell their home because they are being relocated. Normally, you’d need to keep this information confidential. However, the seller instructs you to let potential buyers know that they are motivated. Even though this could potentially result in lower offers, you must obey their instruction.
When you’re given lawful instructions that you don’t agree with, a best practice is to ask your client to put their request in writing and keep it in the brokerage file.
Also, remember that if your client instructs you not to show them certain offers, for example, it doesn’t mean those offers didn’t exist. Keep them in the brokerage file.
What are unlawful instructions?
A client can never ask you to break the law, mislead, lie, or misrepresent. Industry professionals are required to adhere to the Real Estate Act and Rules. If you are unsure of a request from a client, check the Rules and the Act – or talk to your broker – before moving forward. If the client insists you do something unlawful, you must refuse, and should consider terminating the relationship and any existing service agreement. And, depending on the seriousness of their request, you may want to inform local authorities.
Examples of unlawful client instructions:
- Your client instructs you to not disclose a material latent defect, such as a leaky foundation. You have a responsibility as a licensed professional to disclose all material latent defects. Not doing so breaches the Real Estate Act Rules
- Your client instructs you to use non-RMS size of a property in your listing. You must use the RMS size if you are representing the size in your listing advertisement, to do otherwise is misleading and a breach of the Real Estate Act Rules.
- Your client instructs you to tell potential buyers there are multiple offers, when there are not. You have a responsibility to be honest. You cannot lie or misrepresent.
- Your client instructs you to include physical aspects of a home in your listing that have not been built yet. As with the examples above, you cannot mislead or lie.
Remember, you work for the client. You are free to advise your client against certain actions, and you can provide your reasons for doing so, but if they wish to continue and instruct you to take a certain action, you must obey. It is your responsibility as an industry professional to understand the difference between lawful and unlawful instructions. If an instruction is unlawful, explain the reasons it is unlawful, and indicate you cannot obey that instruction.