Frequently Asked Questions

Legal Hotline FAQ

A blog of the most frequently asked questions to the Maryland REALTORS Legal Hotline.

Cindy Sellers
Cindy Sellers
Cindy Sellers's Blog

I wrote a contract for my buyer, which was eventually ratified.

As a legal matter, negotiations over a modification to an existing agreement have no impact on the enforceability of the underlying contract. In other words, even if the parties cannot agree on a new purchase price, the original contract remains in full force and effect. Maryland law allows parties to modify their agreements in almost any manner they see fit. Under the Entire Agreement provision of the MAR Residential Contract of Sale, the terms of the contract, once signed, can only be changed by a document executed by all parties. Therefore, if the parties do not agree on the provisions within the document making the proposed change, the contract is still enforceable.
This question also raises other, non-legal issues. Most importantly, we strongly advise against REALTORS® writing contracts. Contracts for the sale of property are between the buyer and the seller. You may generally provide “ministerial” acts, such as assisting a person (a client or a customer) to complete or fill out a contract. But that does not mean that you “wrote” the contract. To do otherwise is to engage in the unauthorized practice of law, which is a crime in Maryland, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, one year in prison, or both.
Second, contracts are not usually “ratified.” When an offer is made and accepted, there is a binding contract. On the last page of the MAR Contract of Sale, there is a line for the parties to indicate the “date of contract acceptance.” This is the date the contract was entered into. Ratification is not a term used in contract law.
Also, while we understand it is common to use phrases such as “my contract,” we are concerned that by taking ownership of the transaction, you may inadvertently project your personal beliefs and opinions onto the matter. We should always take care how we characterize things. Often the label applied to something governs the way we think of it. Witness the political battle over what is sometimes now referred to as the “death tax” but until recently was known exclusively as the estate tax.
Agents represent principals and should never sign documents on behalf of clients or make decisions without proper direction from the principal. Interjecting yourself into the transaction is inappropriate. This thinking could lead to one becoming more involved in decision making than one is legally entitled to under the law of agency. You will find that changing the approach you use will have a powerful influence on the way you think and, as a consequence, how you act.

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