Sex offenders in the area

Asked by Germantown, Germantown, TN Tue Mar 29, 2011

Should real estate agents disclose to their clients that the property they are considering neighbors a sex offender? It is unfortunately too late for us but it has me curious as to the ethics of house selling.
It is easier to search sites like McGruff now for this information, and I wished it was around when we were buying our house!

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Dan Tabit’s answer
Dan Tabit, Agent, Issaquah, WA
Tue Mar 29, 2011
The problem with an agent taking responsibility for this type of information is that it can change. If on Tuesday they tell you, and thus take responsibility for the accuracy for the information that there are no registered sex offenders in the neighborhood and on Wednesday one arrives, the agent didn't do anything wrong but you are still going to be ticked off. This information is generally available through state or county websites like the one I've posted below and I encourage my clients to do their own research by checking such sites and actually meeting neighbors prior to being fully contractually committed.
One other consideration, these sites can only tell you where the "registered" sex offenders are supposed to be. Often times, the unregistered and mobile ones are just as big of a risk. There is also the risk one moves in next door the day after closing. There is only so much you can do.
2 votes
Venita Peyton, Agent, Raleigh, NC
Wed Mar 30, 2011
Dear Homeowner, you have a right to ask questions and we as Realtors have a right to point to you where the info can be found. On one hand, our Ethics preclude us from discriminating. On the other hand, we usually encourage people to talk with neighbors in advance of purchase. I'm equally concerned with predators who've yet to be discovered or reported. Nowadays it could easily be a relative, neighbor, or close friend.
1 vote
Nick & Trudy…, Agent, Devon, PA
Wed Mar 30, 2011
In PA we also are not allowed to answer directly, but indicate where you can find that information, like many issues, your agent is often a source of where to find the information rather than necessarily being the source of the information
1 vote
Mack McCoy, Agent, Seattle, WA
Wed Mar 30, 2011
Dan's right, again!

Here's the thing, Home Owner. Real estate agents have a different responsibility than you think. One is to practice within the constraints of our license. That means to be responsible in everything we do.

When we go outside of that domain - to provide legal advice, construction advice, research land-use information or do research on police records - we then take on the role of "expert," and are responsible for the accuracy of that information. We are not experts in locating Registered Sex Offenders, who, by the way, are not a Protected Class under the Fair Housing Act. (They have other rights to privacy, but that's another matter.)

So if we were to, say, search a site like McGruff, and find out that an RSO lived across the street, and told you what we found . . . and didn't discover the one living next door to him, you might feel justified in faulting us for not doing thorough enough research - we acted like an expert, and didn't perform to that level.

As for ethics, Realtors(r) subscribe to a formal Code of Ethics, which anybody can look at and know what to expect from us. Researching RSOs is not part of our duty to the public.

All the best,
1 vote
Joan Braunsc…, , Morris County, NJ
Wed Mar 30, 2011
In NJ, we are not allowed to answer the question directly, just point you in the direction of where the information can be found.

Outrageous but true.
1 vote
Sally Summer…, Agent, Memphis, TN
Sat Dec 1, 2012
I try to provide my clients with the best tools to make wise decisions that are in their best interest. A website I recommend is
0 votes
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