Josephine Gantt, an 82-year-old woman who has resided in her home in Northeast Portland for approximately 47 years, recently filed a lawsuit alleging that “RE/MAX Equity Group and its agents began a campaign to pressure and coerce Mrs. Gantt into selling her home by befriending her and gaining her trust. RE/MAX, through its agents…lied to Mrs. Gantt about documents she was signing, and deceived Mrs.Gantt into selling her home without her knowledge or consent to a buyer represented by RE/MAX.”
The Plaintiff maintains that she answered an advertisement because she wanted to know the value of her home. Ms. Gantt received a telephone call from the agent in response to her completion of an online questionnaire. The agent subsequently met with the homeowner and discussed a comparative market analysis. Ms. Gantt acknowledged she was having difficulty living alone but was not ready to sell at that time.
Ms. Gantt alleges that the agent pressured her to sell over the course of the next year and, eventually, she signed what she believed was a listing agreement. She claims that she was having vision problems which impaired her ability to review the documents and it turns out that she had actually signed a Residential Purchase Agreement. She requested the document be canceled but the agent allegedly explained this could not be done.
The lawsuit indicates that RE/MAX and its agents are liable for, among other things, elder abuse and requests economic damages of $50,000 and an emotional distress award of $100,000. Pursuant to the Oregon Elder Abuse Statute, a claimant is entitled to triple damages and, accordingly, Ms. Gantt is seeking $450,000 as well as her attorney’s fees.
PRACTICE POINTER: While agents should always ensure the client understands the nature of the transaction and consents to the steps to be taken to effectively market and sell their home, additional measures can easily be taken to achieve this goal when representing a senior. Undoubtedly seniors will discuss a strong attachment to their home and, at times, express a reluctance to sell. However, licensees must use extreme caution to avoid tactics that can be perceived as pressure or aggressive. Documenting conversations becomes even more important in these types of situations.