Personal injury lawsuits are filed daily in the United States. An open house, a Realtor's place of work, and a place of possible danger to unsuspecting visitors are not immune to lawsuits. As a Realtor, you must be aware of personal injury lawsuits and determine your obligations to visitors at an open house. Open houses are a familiar venue for personal injury claims. This type of claim is called a premises liability claim.
As dwpersonalinjurylaw.com explains, premises liability claims involve dangerous conditions at the property that a Realtor has rented or leased for an open house. These claims are essentially property owner insurance claims. Liability can be attributed to a Realtor's failure to warn others of these pre-existing conditions. However, your duty to others depends on the Realtors' relationship with those injured.
Your duty to guests of a property is the same as any other personal property owner. You should warn about dangerous conditions that you know about and are able and capable of correcting. If it is dangerous for you to repair, you can post warning signs or take other action to protect others from the danger.
According to vdlegal.com, a Realtor does not have a duty to inspect the property for open or obvious hazards. Open and apparent dangers are hazards that a person of average intelligence would notice when entering the property. These are not hidden hazards. If the danger is readily apparent, you do not have a duty to warn, even if you know about it. If there is no duty to warn and you fail to warn adequately, then you may be held liable for any injuries caused by your negligence in failing to warn others.
The duty to guests at an open house is not absolute. It depends on a Realtor's relationship with their guests. A Realtor's duty to guests depends on these criteria. The more factors that are present, the more likely a Realtor can be held liable for a guest injured due to a dangerous open house condition.
If renting a property owned by another, you must warn other visitors of such conditions. If you are leasing a property owned by another, you may continue to lease the property if it is not in a hazardous condition.
If there is no duty owed to guests and no notice given by the Realtor, then there is no legal obligation to correct known conditions or warn of dangerous conditions. You do not have any legal obligation under common law or statute, so nothing is preventing you from ignoring the situation.
A Realtor's duty to guests at an open house is minimal and may be waived. An owner or caretaker can waive a duty if the warning interferes with their ultimate purpose of leasing or selling the property. The duty of a Realtor to warn guests must also be balanced against other duties they may have as the operator of a business (i.e., serving clients, showing properties, etc.).