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No Liability For Buyers Fall
OCTOBER 26, 2016
Read the full decision: Rucker v. Fed. Nat'l Mortg. Ass'n, No. 15CA1755, 2016 WL 4408899
A Colorado court rules that placing a “for sale” sign on a property does not constitute an invitation for the public to enter the property and therefore the seller and listing broker were not liable for buyer’s injuries that occurred when she entered property unaccompanied by the listing broker.
A woman (“Buyer”) was interested in purchasing a property held by the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Owner”). Because of the Buyer’s financial situation, her parents (“Parents”) agreed to purchase the home for her and she would rent it from them.
The listing broker (“Broker”) for the Owner’s home had placed a “For Sale” sign on the property that listed his name and phone number. He had also placed a notice on the front door that warned trespassers that they would be prosecuted.
After making the offer to purchase the property, the Buyer brought her mother to the property. They did not inform the Broker or the Owner that they would be visiting the property. While they were walking around the property, the Buyer’s mother fell and suffered injuries.
The Buyer’s mother brought a lawsuit against the Owner and the Broker for her injuries. She claimed that the “For Sale” sign constituted an “express or implied representation” to the public to visit the property. The trial court concluded that the Buyer and her mother were trespassers on the property and the “For Sale” sign did not make her an invitee because she never had the permission of the land owner to enter the property. The Buyer’s mother appealed this ruling.
The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court ruling. Unlike most states where a landowner’s duties to visitors are established by common law, Colorado had codified the common law into its statutes. The statutes describe an “invitee” as a person who is invited by the owner onto the property or comes to the property to do business with the owner, while a “trespasser” is an individual who enters the property without permission of the landowner.
The court determined that a “For Sale” sign, standing alone, does not create an implied invitation to strangers to enter a property. The court found that a ruling that concluded by placing a “For Sale” on a property would allow anyone to enter the property without permission would be unreasonable; instead, the court stated that a “For Sale” sign coupled with other facts, such as the owner allowing others to enter the property unaccompanied, could create an implied invitation but this would require a factual examination. Since there were no such facts present that would create an implied invitation by the Owner, the court affirmed the trial court’s ruling that the Buyer’s mother was a trespasser on the property.
Rucker v. Fed. Nat'l Mortg. Ass'n, No. 15CA1755, 2016 WL 4408899 (Colo. Ct. App. July 28, 2016). [This is a citation to a Westlaw document. Westlaw is a subscription, online legal research service. If an official reporter citation should become available for this case, the citation will be updated to reflect this information].
From NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Tammie began her career in real estate in 1987. Early in her career she could be found managing condominiums, cooperatives and home owner associations in the greater Washington, DC area. Tammie was br....