Q: Denise, my seller (whose home is on the market) just learned that she has an infestation of bees in her attic. Of course, I am very concerned about the safety issues here, as I don’t want anyone getting stung, let alone someone who has an allergy. But my seller is refusing to fix the problem indicating that she has no money to do so and she doesn’t want to interfere with nature (but I think it is more about the money and less about nature). I don’t want to tell her to buzz off because I have actually invested quite a lot in this listing. What do I do?
A: Wow! This sounds like a very interesting problem. My advice is going to come from more of a conflict management point of view than a legal point of view, but before I even get into the conflict management angle, you have a public safety issue that needs to be dealt with immediately. This may include everything from removing the home from the market or including your safety concerns in the listing remarks. You need to contact your broker and determine what policies your office, the MLS, etc has in place when you are dealing with a home that has a public safety situation attached to it.
Now, what to do about your seller. Well, depending on what your broker has to say, your seller may not have a choice in the matter. If the home has to be removed from the market until the situation has been taken care of, then the seller will have to determine if she wants to sell her home. If she does, she will have to take care of the bees.
However, if it is determined that there is a precedent for keeping the home on the market with the bees, so long as there is warnings posted about what might be found inside, and the seller disclosing that this is now a known material defect in the home, then you have a choice to make. Will you continue to list this property? What will you require of the seller to do so? A price reduction? With disclosures, the buyer pool for the property will inevitably shrink, meaning demand for her home will likely go down. A price reduction may cost her more than what she would spend on pest control.
If your seller’s concern truly is more about nature than money, the bee colony may also be removed from the house and relocated if they are, say, a colony of honeybees. However, if they are wasps, yellow jackets, etc., then pest control needs to take care of that situation.
Don’t get emotionally tied up in this problem. Stick to the facts and calmly present the options available to the seller once you find out from your broker what those options are. Good luck!