Inaccurate square footage could land you in court

by Paul Cowhig, Advisor, Professional Standards

Last week we received a note of caution from our members’ insurance provider, the Real Estate Errors and Omissions Insurance Corporation (E&O).  They alerted us to a recent case against a member where there was a discrepancy in the square footage posted in a listing.

Fortunately for the REALTOR®, the presiding judge dismissed the claim with no damages because the discrepancy was considered negligible. However, the judge made a comment on our standard disclaimer of “The enclosed information while deemed to be correct is not guaranteed.”

He said the disclaimer was “at best confusing and not enough to put (the complainant) on notice that he should not rely on the information provided.”

The judge noted that in other square footage cases, the information provided to the consumer contained such additional disclaimers as “All measurements to be verified by purchaser if important” or “…should not be relied upon without independent verification.”

This kind of disclaimer language can be included in Public Remarks.

The judge also said that these disclaimers “are clear in communicating to the reader that the provider of the information is not accepting a duty of care by pointedly requiring persons to verify the information before relying on it.”

Cover thy butt!

We want to help all members stay out of trouble so this is a heads up.

Remember to use strong wording in your disclaimers, but at the same time, don’t be naïve or lazy about fulfilling your requirement to be accurate in your representations.

For example, don’t simply copy data from a previous listing.  I also suggest you consider quoting your source for measurements, especially with strata properties where there can be different measurements depending on where you got the data. Was it the strata plan? The developers’ disclosure documents? BC Assessment authority? They may all be slightly different.

You can write something such as, “Square footage represented based on registered Strata Plan.” or whatever was your source for the data. Remember, the flavour of the day is Transparency and Disclosure.


I also want to remind you that E&O is always keen to assist you in any way possible to avoid claims. Their staff lawyers and sometimes Leslie Howatt herself, a lawyer and E&O’s Executive Officer, makes herself available in person at brokerage offices to share her knowledge and advice to members.

Howatt also suggests licensees visit the E&O website where there are several good resources.  On the website you will find the box “Licensees” in the top right corner. Use the password ‘eno’ to login.  Under Insurance, licensees will find FAQs, details on the current Indemnity Plan, and tips on how to prevent E&O claims.

By clicking on Managing Brokers at the top of that page you will find a list of PowerPoint presentations that are free to download and share with office teams, as well as a list of valuable articles. There’s no want of resources to help keep yourself, claim-free.

I heard a great quote the other day:

“Strive not so much for success but rather to be of service.”