Our Opinion: New listing: 3 bd, 2 bath, 1 sex offender

A proposed state law to make real estate professionals responsible for notification concerning sex offenders is misguided.

The proposal has been advanced by state Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City. His bill would require a home buyer’s real estate agent to disclose to the seller’s agent that the prospective buyer also is a convicted sex offender. If a sale is completed, the buyer’s agent also would be required to notify neighbors living within a half mile.

Davis said his proposal was prompted by a personal experience when he and his neighbors were unaware that a sex offender had moved into the subdivision.

Although we generally favor maximum disclosure, we have concerns with the added costs and responsibilities associated with this bill.

A provision of the bill would require sex offenders to report their criminal past to their real estate agent.

Bunnie Trickey Cotten, president of the Jefferson City Area Board of Realtors, questions whether offenders would make such disclosures. “As I understand the proposal,” she said, “there is no penalty for their failure to do so.”

If disclosure is made and a sale completed, the agent inherits the burden of notifying neighbors.

A sex offender registry maintained by the state, however, already is available and accessible to the public. What the bill would do, essentially, is require real estate agents to be responsible for disseminating specific public information.

That transfer of responsibility would be time-consuming and costly for real estate agents.

The agent would be required to determine the names and addresses of everyone who lives within a half-mile of the sex offender, a task that would involve time and effort, particularly in densely populated areas.

The agent then would need a fool-proof method of notification, probably registered mail.

Failure to comply with the law would create liability for real estate agents, who likely would seek some form of insurance coverage.

Who would pay the added costs of labor, notification and insurance incurred by the real estate agent?

All or part of those costs invariably would be passed on to their clients — buyers and sellers of real estate.

Davis said he is not pushing his proposal to become law this session, but did want to spark discussion of the concept.

Unless our objections can be overcome, we would oppose this bill. Mandatory notification of public information does not justify the costs and consequences.

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