Holding a Realtor's® Feet to the Fire over Second-Hand Smoke

By
Real Estate Agent with The Buyers' Counsel

Cigarette BurningIn a case that had more than a scent of trouble, a Massachusetts jury has rejected a woman's claim against her Realtor® in a lawsuit involving second-hand smoke.  It was the first suit of its kind to make it to trial in the state. 

When 32 year old Alyssa Burrage first visited the bright and sunny parlor-level condo in Boston's South end she distinctly remembered the smell of smoke permeating the air. When she mentioned this fact to her broker, he assured her that the owner of the unit must have been a smoker and that the odor could be made to disappear. 

After purchasing the unit for $405,000 and paying an unspecified amount in repairs she moved into her new home only to make an unpleasant discovery.  

Not only was the smoke smell still there but it seemed as though it was emanating from the condo below.  Apparently, one of the two men who lived there was a smoker.  Burrage asked the condo association for help with the matter but it was to no avail. 

Living with a life-long condition of asthma, she ended up in a situation where it was a struggle to breathe in the smoke-filled environment and eventually had to move out of her home. 

During her week-long court case, Burrage remembered that the broker had burned candles at his open house and had passed off the cigarette smell as something that would go away after she moved in.  

Well - it didn't.  And, her attorney asked for more than $70,000 in damages for personal injuries along with the cost of remodeling the condo. 

In the end, it took the 14-member jury less than an hour to rule in favor of the Sotheby Realtor®.  

My guess is that the agent: 

  1. had a good attorney, and
  2. was lucky to have drawn this jury.

Whatever the outcome for this Realtor® implies, I think the fact that this case went to trial underscores the significance of second-hand smoke issues.  And, before we pass it off as something that will probably just go away - perhaps a little more investigation is in order. 

  

Copyright 2010 - Holding a Realtor's® Feet to the Fire over Second-Hand Smoke

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Claudette Millette, Broker, Owner, The Buyers' Counsel - a Buyer Broker Since 1992

If you have questions about buying a home in Massachusetts please give me a call at 508-881-6230 or Email Me.  It would be a pleasure to talk with you.

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Re-Bloggged 5 times:

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  1. Joseph J. Chang 02/18/2010 09:46 AM
  2. Joseph J. Chang 02/18/2010 09:47 AM
  3. Irene Bilinski 02/18/2010 01:39 PM
  4. Erica Ramus 02/18/2010 04:35 PM
  5. Jason Killam 02/18/2010 10:58 PM
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Rainmaker
814,135
J. Philip Faranda
Broker-Owner
J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY

In the article link posted on the Boston Globe website, the commenters overwhelmingly agree with the jury. 

February 19, 2010 06:48 AM
Rainmaker
280,358
Drick Ward
"RealtorDrick" - Experienced Representation
NEPTUNE REALTY

Claudette, bless you for responding to all of our comments.  My point on her doing more thorough inspections was that if she had investigated far enough to determine it was indeed the neighbors, she could have withdrawn from the purchase and bought somewhere more suited to her.  I am surprised, however, at the agents who side with her (but I'm still glad she lost.)

February 19, 2010 03:55 PM
Rainmaker
401,965
Claudette Millette
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass
The Buyers' Counsel

Hi, Drick:

Thanks so much for your comments on this post.

Unfortunately for the buyer in this case, she did not investigate completely until after she was already living there. You are right.  If she had discovered the situation with the neighbors prior to purchase she would have been able to withdraw from the offer.

I am not sure that so many agents completely sided with her on this. I think it was rather a wake-up to be more cautious in these types of circumstances. If the broker really did "gloss over" the situation with the smoke odor and told her that it would be solved by painting and renovating, that was a misstatement on his part.

February 19, 2010 06:13 PM
Rainmaker
22,046
Norma Crouse
Norma Crouse
HER Realtors

I recently read that the person did sue the condo association or owner (can't remember) and they paid her so they would not have to go to court (that is what was said their reason was for paying).  I have lived in apartments where people next door and below me have smoked and I have never smelled smoke from their apartments.  I am sensitive to cigarette smoke too but unless you move into a non smoking building, I don't see how you can expect that other people will not smoke or have people over who smoke.

I sometimes light candles and have had owners bake cookies and it's not always because their home smells - I just think it makes it smell nice. 

The last condo I sold, I have no idea if the people next door smoked or if whatever the people next door were doing, the smell would not come thru the walls.  I think the whole thing sounds a little crazy.  Especially since she knew that cigarette smoke bothered her and she smelled it and still bought the place.

 

February 20, 2010 03:24 PM
Rainmaker
863,694
Jane Peters
Connecting you to the L.A. real estate scene
Power Brokers Int'l

Interesting outcome.  I wonder if the realtor really knew where the smoke was coming from.  If so, that was not the correct judgement. 

February 21, 2010 02:41 PM
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Claudette Millette

Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass
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