I saw a news article recently about why real estate agents should use their personal email addresses. The article talked about the 10,000 selfish reasons why it benefits the Realtor®. It was a grand display of the underbelly of self-centered real estate professionals. I am here to tell you that using a personal email for real estate business is STUPID and perhaps illegal.
The communications between a real estate agent and a consumer are subject to the real estate laws in your state. They are communications that happen under the supervision of the agent’s real estate broker. They are covered by the insurances held by the real estate broker. They are subject to the Realtor® Code of Ethics® if you are a Realtor®.
Last year, there were multiple instances of eMails getting hacked. In many cases, consumer information was compromised. In some cases, earnest money instructions were hijacked and in one case, $250,000 was stolen.
Guess what? If you are a real estate agent who gets hacked or has earnest money stolen, you are in deep you-know-what.
You probably violated the broker’s independent contractor policy that you signed. If you did, your broker does not need to help you. In fact, if your actions cause harm to the brokerage brand, you could be liable for those damages.
So lets calculate the potential risks:
- You can get fired from the brokerage for not following policy.
- You pay for any and all expenses to take care of the consumer privacy breach.
- You are responsible for damages to the consumer.
- You may be responsible for damages to the broker.
- You may be subject to a Department of Real Estate investigation
- You may be subject to a Realtor® Association Ethics Violation.
Is it worth it?
We understand that agents switch firms. As a professional, you should have an address book of all of your customers. A simple excel spreadsheet works great for this.
You can use a service like Plaxo or simply send a bunch of emails to your clients of the new contact information. Mailers are also pretty effective. Staying connected on Social Media works too.
Whatever you do, please stop using your personal email for business before you get attacked in a terrible online situation. It happens.
The Brokerage can make a claim for an Errors and Omissions Insurance claim. But ultimately, the Brokerage is responsible for the actions of their agent and their fiduciary duty is to the client. Much more money will be lost by going through litigation, mediation, or arbitration; all of which are NOT “Dollar Productive” activities. What about the attention and publicity – positive or negative. In my opinion, it’s a no-brainer!