Can home seller get out of a 4-month listing?

DEAR BOB: I signed a contract with a real estate agent for afour-month listing to sell my home. But he has not done much. I decided not tosell my home; but is there any other way to get out of this listing contractlegally and hire a better agent? –Vincent N.

DEAR VINCENT: Presuming you signed a four-month exclusiveright-to-sell listing, the listing agent has a fiduciary duty to you to use”due diligence” to get your home sold according to the listing terms.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

That means the listing agent must do at least what is normaland customary, such as placing your listing in the local MLS (multiple listingservice), listing your home on the Internet at,having your home open for a weekday tour by local realty agents, andadvertising your home in the newspapers and other media.

In addition, he might hold weekend open houses, send mailersto neighboring homeowners (who often have friends and relatives who want tomove into the neighborhood), and print brochures.

Proving a lack of due diligence by a real estate agent, thusentitling you to cancel the listing, is very difficult. Of course, if the agentdidn’t do any of these things listed above, then you could cancel the listingfor lack of due diligence.

You say you decided not to sell your home. But in the samesentence you said you want to get out of the listing contract and hire a betteragent.

Most agents will allow you to cancel a listing if you decidenot to sell. However, they usually include a clause stating that if you decideto sell within 180 days, you will re-list with the same agent.

I suggest you have a frank discussion with the listing agentand the office brokerage manager to resolve your dissatisfaction. Perhaps yourlisting can be transferred to a better agent within the same firm to get yourhome sold.


DEAR BOB: I used to care for my late father in the housewhere I now live. After his death, the house was willed to my sister. Itrecently sold. How long do I have to vacate? Can they come and change thelocks? My sister notified me verbally to move out. –Robert N.

DEAR ROBERT: Legally, you are known as a tenant-at-will, orpossibly a tenant-at-sufferance if you aren’t paying any rent.

Depending on state law where the house is located, youshould be given at least a 30-day written notice to vacate. That presumes youdon’t have a written lease for a stated term.

If you fail to vacate after receiving a written notice tomove out, the new owners can evict you through a court unlawful detainerproceeding. However, you don’t want to wait that long to move out. Startlooking now for another place to live. For more details, please consult a localreal estate attorney.


DEAR BOB: When our father died about five years ago, hiswill left his house to his five children from his first marriage, including me.But his will gave his second wife a life estate in the house until she dies orremarries. She has not remarried, but she is living in the house with herlive-in boyfriend, who might as well be her husband. They are not maintainingthe house very well and it looks like a dump. It needs a new roof, but insteadof installing a new one, she has put an ugly blue tarp on the roof. She failedto pay the property taxes. When I went to see an attorney to get her out, henotified her, and the boyfriend paid the property taxes. Is there anything weheirs can do before she destroys our inheritance? –Byron R.

DEAR BYRON: Getting rid of a life tenant is never easy.However, failure to pay the property taxes, or committing physical”waste,” are valid legal reasons to terminate a life estate.

From your description, the life tenant’s failure to repairor replace the roof is waste, which can be legal grounds to terminate the lifeestate.

If she fails to pay the property taxes again, and if shehasn’t fixed the roof, it might be the evidence you need to bring a legalaction to terminate the life tenancy. Perhaps you should find a more aggressivereal estate attorney.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “How to Sell YourHouse or Condo for Top Dollar With or Without a Real Estate Agent,” is nowavailable for $5 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010 or bycredit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant Internet delivery at Questions for this columnare welcome at either address.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center

Copyright 2006 Inman News

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