In many divorce decrees, the parties are obligated to list real estate for sale. However, what it means to list a property for sale has never been defined until recently.
In an unpublished decision dated August 6, 2012, the New Hampshire Supreme Court held that listing a property for sale requires the seller to not only execute an Exclusive Listing Agreement, but to also list the property on the Multiple Listing Service (“MLS”).
The case In re: Cotran dealt with the wife’s allegation that the husband was in contempt of court for failing to sell undeveloped property in Antrim, New Hampshire. While the husband signed an Exclusive Listing Agreement with a realtor and placed a for sale sign on the property, he did not list the property on the MLS until almost one year after the Listing Agreement was signed. The husband argued that he waited to put the property on the MLS because as it was undeveloped it needed to be “walkable.” The wife, who brought a realtor to court with her, stated that in the real estate industry listing a property for sale requires that it be placed on the MLS. Without listing the property on the MLS, the chance of it being sold is virtually non-existent.
The Supreme Court stated that “listing a property for sale” means what the real estate industry believes it to mean; that is putting the property on the MLS. The important lessons to be taken from this case are this new clarified definition for listing property for sale, but also that certain phrases have unique meanings within the industry to which they apply. If there is any doubt as to what a party is obligating themselves to do under an agreement, that term should be clarified with as much detail as possible.
Andrew J. Piela is a Director at Hamblett & Kerrigan, P.A. Mr. Piela concentrates his practice in civil litigation, family law, probate and land use litigation. You can reach Attorney Piela by e-mail at [email protected].