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Who Signs a Listing?

It may be tempting to get a listing signed quickly, but some situations require you to ask questions and be patient to ensure that someone officially authorized to sign a listing agreement does so.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Signatures can be a nuanced topic, so here’s a quick disclaimer: If you’re ever uncertain or need peace of mind, consulting an attorney to confirm you have the correct signatures can a very wise investment, particularly for high-end listings. That said, here are a few basic concepts that come up regularly on the Florida Realtors® Legal Hotline.

Is an individual required to sign using their legal name only? This is certainly a best practice, although an agreement would likely still be enforceable if someone uses an abbreviation, nickname, or leaves off a middle name. So, if Pamela Thompson signs as “Pam Thompson,” you probably don’t need to rush to re-execute the listing agreement.

The bottom of each page has space for initials by the seller and broker or associate. But completing all spots for initials is more of a best practice than a requirement, since a listing signed by both parties is likely enforceable even if some or all the spots for initials remain blank.

If someone is married, can one spouse just sign for both? For Pete’s sake, please no. Any time there are multiple owners, you’ll need each to sign a listing agreement unless there’s a specific additional authorization in place.

One example of authorization is a power of attorney (POA). This document empowers one person to sign on behalf of another. Ideally, this should be prepared by a Florida attorney, although parties can prepare their own using a form they located online or elsewhere.

As a cautionary note, we routinely hear about closing agents who find a consumer prepared POA insufficient, so they should carefully vet any POA they find on their own. They should also beware that POAs that work in other states or countries may not work in Florida.

Another example of authorization is a court-ordered sale, such as a partition action. This can be a legally sufficient substitute for the signature of all owners, although these cases are usually a sign of conflict among the owners. So, don’t be too surprised if that conflict continues throughout the transaction when the sale is ordered by a court.

If a property is held in trust, who signs? It’s the trustee (or trustees, if there are multiple). You may find yourself dealing with beneficiaries from time to time, but when it’s time to sign, the trustee should show up with pen in hand. Sometimes they can hold both titles when a trustee is also a beneficiary. If people are uncertain about the roles, there’s usually an attorney who prepared the trust who can shed light on the signatory question.

Corporate entities are like trusts, in that the consumer should know who can sign and what their title is. If not, a lawyer can assist. The difference between entities and a trust is that there’s a wide assortment of titles people can hold, and often the only way to identify the proper signatory (or signatories) is by reading dense corporate documents. You may find the signatory is called chief executive officer, president, vice-president, manager, member, partner, general partner, or any manner of additional titles.

One final example of an unusual signatory appears on a listing agreement signature line. While brokers are obligated to hold some form of officer or director position, which often includes signatory powers, sales associates and broker associates aren’t allowed to hold any of those positions.

Nonetheless, the signature line for the real estate brokerage firm provides two options: “Authorized Sales Associate or Broker.” This does not mean any associate can sign at any time. It means that there’s a possible legal path a broker can take to authorize associates to sign and bind their brokerage firm to a contract. Any associates who are unsure about their ability to sign should consult their broker or an attorney.

Joel Maxson is Associate General Counsel for Florida Realtors

Note: Information deemed accurate on date of publication

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