Blogger, California Realtor association feud over blog posts
A real estate broker in Irvine, Calif., is fighting claims he lied and disparaged professional real estate agents by criticizing them on a blog for failing to give homebuyers the best advice. The Orange County Association of Realtors alleges Larry Roberts used a blog to discuss the real estate community's ethical practices. While Roberts never identified any individual real estate agent, he argued they employ salesperson-type tactics, acting without any obligation to offer sound advice that could dissuade buyers from bad deals. His comments rattled the Orange County Association of Realtors, prompting the association to send a letter requesting Roberts attend a disciplinary hearing for violating an ethics code under multiple listing service agreements. Roberts' attorney fired back, arguing in a letter that OCAR has no jurisdiction over Roberts, who is a real estate broker but not a member of the trade group. Roberts also contends any attempt to silence him is unconstitutional. “This is America. Mr. Roberts would welcome an informed data-driven debate on the housing market," said Scott Simms, Roberts' attorney. "Unfortunately OCAR prefers secret trials to silence him. Roberts has done nothing wrong. He has only exercised the free speech rights that every American holds dear.” A spokesperson for OCAR could not be reached for comment. One of Roberts' main points of concern is the structure of the Realtor job description. He argued in blog posts that brokers escaped the crisis with their reputations intact, even though he believes they were complicit in failing to warn clients about housing bubbles and inflated home values. Roberts contends that real estate brokers should either assume some professional responsibility to advise clients on areas of risk, or they should admit publicly that they are commissioned-based sales agents who should not be relied upon for unbiased counsel. Write to Kerri Panchuk.