Realtor discovers clients eavesdropped on homebuyers

A real estate agent in Ontario recently discovered that two of her clients used cameras and microphones to listen in on the conversations of potential homebuyers.

According to CBC News, Hamilton realtor Webster said she only found out about the surveillance when her clients mentioned it. Webster told CBC News that neither seller had installed the surveillance devices specifically to monitor potential buyers. It's also unclear if they were hidden, or had simply gone unnoticed.

"You can see how somebody could listen in and get some very interesting information,” Webster told CBC News. “And then, when it's in your lap, you don't want to use it, but it could be tempting for some people. It could be tempting for anybody."

While her clients said that they did not use this information to their advantage, Webster points out that temptation is inherent.

"If your comments and their comments were being recorded certainly that puts the ball in the other person's court doesn't it?” she said.

Now Webster is calling for a rule to compel sellers to say if their homes are under surveillance. According to CBC News, she also wants listing agreements to say if there's audio or video surveillance onsite, and for a warning sign to be posted on the site.

The ministry of government and consumer services sets industry rules in Ontario. In a statement given to CBC News, the minister's press secretary David Woolley said realtors are subject to federal privacy law and could not use this sort of surveillance material "for commercial purposes… without the consent of an individual involved in the transaction."

On the other hand, the Real Estate Council of Ontario, which enforces industry laws, told CBC News that realtors and brokers should tell homebuyers if they are potentially being recorded. "Because recording devices are becoming more and more popular, we advise salespeople and brokers to caution the homebuyers… that there may be a recording device in the home," deputy registrar of regulatory compliance Kelvin Kucey told CBC News.

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