The foreclosure crisis and Census taking have joined forces to create yet another new headache for Realtors®:

Some Census workers have been contacting the listing agents of vacant properties (or their brokers) if the last known occupant hasn’t completed the Census form. Sometimes the Census workers have been very aggressive in attempting to acquire information about the owners or occupants. And the United State Code stipulates that it’s unlawful for an “…owner, proprietor, manager, superintendent, or agent of any hotel, apartment house, boarding or lodging house, tenement, or other building, (to) refuse or willfully neglect, . . . to furnish the names of the occupants of such premises” during the Census.

But under listing agreements, brokers and agents have obligations to their sellers, usually including a duty of confidentiality.  Which raises the question: What do listing agents and their brokers have to disclose to Census workers?

Fortunately, NAR and the Census Bureau have been in communication about this issue, and NAR has released some information on an understanding reached between the two. You should read the article in full, but in a nutshell:

  • Realtors® are not legally required to provide Census workers with information about their listings’ owners or occupants.
  • Before releasing information to Census workers, agents should seek authorization from the seller, if any existing agreements between the seller and agent are unclear on confidentiality matters.