By Gary S. Mueller, Three Rivers Association of REALTORS® Attorney
August---Already! Time is right for kids to go back to school; for football to start; for baseball fates to be solidified….Yikes. Anyone else in a state of disbelief over the quickened warp of time or is this just me?
So much to write about, so little space.
Probably the most significant “buzz” legal case that currently affects our industry was the Illinois Class action case against Zillow.com. In that case, the plaintiffs, property owners, sued Zillow.com for violations of the Illinois Real Estate Appraiser Licensing Act as well as the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. In that case, the plaintiffs maintained that Zillow’s Zestimate feature, a feature of the site that provides a “value” of the property owner’s property designed to draw property owners to the website and to agents working with Zillow, was deceptive. Zillow maintained that the Zestimate is a nonactionable opinion of value and is disclosed as such on the website or email that is forwarded to the property owner. The plaintiffs also maintained that the Zestimate amounts to a bait and switch by using low Zestimates for FSBO and unlisted properties to draw potential buyers to the site and to Zillow affiliated premier brokers. In dismissing the law suit, the Judge determined that the opinions of value provided on the site are not false or misleading; the opinions of value are only opinions of value.
In another real estate related case, Receivers may seek increased rental payments under lease agreements the receivers are monitoring when necessary to operate, manage, and conserve the property (see LOMTO Federal Credit Union v.6500 Western LLC, 2018 IL App (1st) 173106). In that case, the plaintiff filed a commercial foreclosure action and sought and was granted immediate possession of the property. The receiver determined the rent did not cover the expenses of the property and left no cash to pay the remaining debt service and thus, increased the rent. The tenant disagreed and said that the rent could not be raised. In finding in favor of the receiver, the Appellate Court indicated that the receiver can increase rent to operate, manage, and conserve the property.
A gentle reminder to all---a) make sure your clients know of the seasonal scams that happen. Specifically, buyers do NOT need a certified copy of the recorded deed to prove they bought the home; b) remind buyers that the documentation requested by the lender is typically required to fund the deal. The frustration with the entire process often starts with the loan paperwork (through little to no fault of the lender); and c) in the end, the deals that “should” close, close. The deals that flip or fall apart typically do not close for a legitimate reason.
Take care. Keep working hard. Thank you for your efforts and professionalism.