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Mass. Court Ruling Means Brokers Better Know Their Zoning

Hoh boy. A Massachusetts appeals court has ruled that a broker has to know what he or she is telling a buyer when it comes to zoning—or else:

Daniel DeWolfe bought a two-family house on Washington Street in Norwell that had been advertised by its listing brokerage, Hingham Centre, Ltd., as zoned "Business B," which a broker told him meant it was suitable for a salon. The property's MLS listing also said it was zoned that way, and the broker gave him a copy of part of the town zoning code allowing salons with "Business B" handwritten at the top. In fact, the property was zoned "Residential B," which does not allow salons, and something DeWolfe did not learn until after he had gotten both a permit for a new septic system and a building permit to install his salon on the first floor.


A superior court had earlier tossed DeWolfe's lawsuit, citing an appeals court ruling that held brokers harmless when it came to the arcana of zoning. The new appeals court ruling suggests that those shoulder shrugs and reassurances better come backed with real expertise. Per Universal Hub:

[I]n their ruling, which hinged in part on a discussion of the grammatical construction of a clause in the purchase-and-sale agreement, the majority said that if the purchaser is looking for a particular kind of zoning and the broker keeps promising it, then the broker has a duty to ensure he or she got the zoning right on the property in question. · Court: Real-Estate Brokers Can Be Held Legally Responsible for What They Tell Buyers [Hub]