Census workers contacting Realtors for info about vacant homes

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.

 

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4 Responses to Census workers contacting Realtors for info about vacant homes

  1. Cindy Jones says:

    I’ve had multiple calls from my signs and requests for codes to get into secure buildings. I’d love to help but my clients safety and confidentiality come before telling a stranger anything.

  2. Jenna King says:

    I have been called by Census workers on many of my listings and didn’t know my sellers’ rights. It is nice to now know that we are not legally required to provide their information. Thanks for verifying this and protecting sellers!

  3. Lenn Harley says:

    What is the mandate of the census? To do a head count of who lives where? If so, a vacant property would not appear to be the subject of a count since no one lives there.

    Seems to me that the census would have already counted the FORMER occupant of a property in their present place of abode. By tracking or tracing former occupants, they risk counting persons twice.

    Is the census interested in people or property?? If it’s people, simply count them where they are. If it’s places, go to the counties and count the tax records of properties.

    I never received a census form because I receive mail at a P.O. Box. How wrongheaded is it to refuse to send forms to P.O. Boxes?? That leaves out a lot of rural folks, like me. Yet, I get my tax records at my P.O. Box. By not sending census forms to rural residents, the numbers for urban residents would dominate, therefore directing federal monies from rural residents to urban residents.

    I believe that every attempt was made to limit the number of census form responses by mail, thereby increasing the number of enumerators who went door to door, as they did mine. More human head counters, higher employment numbers, even if only for a few months.

  4. Seems to me that the census would have already counted the FORMER occupant of a property in their present place of abode. By tracking or tracing former occupants, they risk counting persons twice.

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