What Were They Thinking About?

Photo courtesy of creativecommons.org and wellzee

I just read an article about an estate agent at Jackson-Stops & Staff estate agency in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England, who listed a house for 650,000 pounds (roughly $1,300,000) owned by two women, Suzanne Richards and Sarah Dobinson.

The couple obviously expected professional service from their agent (after all Estate Agent sound so classy doesn’t it?) and were shocked when they found that the word “lesbians” had been inserted into the Internet advertisement for their property where a reference number would normally be found. According to an article in the Daily Mail “they were left feeling ‘insulted and violated’ – an absolutely normal reaction I would say. According to the article the couple sent a letter of complaint to the estate agency but were shocked to receive the response, “We fail to see how we have discriminated against you.”

In our marketplace, I have to believe that this would have turned into a major lawsuit. However, this couple, in a civilized manner, settled the case out of court for roughly $10,000 US, with the agreement that the company would provide diversity and discrimination training for their staff.  

Laws in the U.K. have prevented discrimination of this type since 2006, but on a practical level, the whole story amazes me. What was that agent thinking? Why would they place private information in a public advertisement? The answers will probably not be answered, and even if I found the answer, I don’t think it would satisfy me. Without any comment regarding the lifestyle of the sellers it amazes me that their agent would violate their privacy in this manner. Where is the loyalty owed to the seller in an agency relationship? And what does their private life have to do with the sale of their property?

A cautionary tale for Real estate agents here? I would hope that it would be more of an entry for the Darwin Awards then a potential issue in our business here. The REALTOR’s Code of Ethics would have prohibited such action on the part of an agent here, but I would hope that common sense might help prohibit the action all by itself.

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