Can Real Estate Form Templates Cause Legal Problems?

by Isaac Benmergui, Esq on February 11, 2014

Sometimes the most minute detail can cause a hailstorm of disaster for someone pressing a legal issue, particularly in real estate law. In this case, it’s something simple as a form. Can you believe it? Specifically, if you apparently draft a form out of a template, you might be playing with fire in some cases. Want an example?forms

Take a look at this particular case involving the plaintiff Janet Knutsen, appealing a superior court decision, which denied a motion for a summary judgment and granting the defendant, the Vermont Association of Realtors, Inc.’s, the motion for a summary judgment on an apparent consumer fraud claim due to a purchase of her home in Moretown, Vermont.

Here’s the apparent issue: Knutsen apparently argued that the VAR’s agreement for the purchase and sale of the house used a form that violated the Vermont Consumer Fraud Act (CFA). Two provisions on the form were considered unfair and deceptive, as part of her argument, and therefore liable for damages paid to the plaintiff under the section 2461(b) of the CFA. Here’s the problem, though: those two specific provisions were part of the drafting of the “template” clauses. They’re already established, basically, as “templated” terminology and rhetoric, and can’t be used to bolster or support any such consumer fraud claim. The moral here is to always review the documents carefully before signing off on them.

As standard with any real estate deal, it helps to consult with a quality real estate attorney about the matter, just to be sure it’s an agreement you’re comfortable with. Otherwise, you’re stuck between that rock and a hard place where your own legal ‘opinions’ may not matter at all.

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