Dear Zuess

I am really curious about this one. My seller client had three offers on their home. Each offer had some good points and all three offers were fairly similar with minor differences in closing dates, deposit, inclusions and price. I reviewed each of the offers with my client and we discussed options and possibilities. We conversed about the idea of sending them all back to improve their offers, we considered the idea of signing one offer back while holding on to the others and we talked about just accepting the best offer. Interestingly, my client stated that they preferred not to sell to one of the potential buyers. This surprised me and caught me off guard. I inquired about this preference but they were unwilling to give me more information. In the end, a different buyer bought the house for more money but I really need to know what my duties were in the situation.


Dear Melinda,

Tough question! You don’t say what you feel the issue was but for the sake of the article, let’s assume that you were concerned that it was a discrimination issue. Perhaps the potential buyer that the sellers preferred not to sell to was of  a different colour, race, religion, sexual orientation, age, family status – well the list goes on. Obviously, there is nothing ok about this but what are the legal implications?

We owe our clients Fiduciary Duties. This includes the duty of Obedience which means we must follow our client’s instructions if they are legal and within the context of our client relationship. This is obviously within the context so the only question remaining, is it legal? The US is extremely clear about his but in Canada it is not as clear as one would think. I put the question out to some excellent lawyers and they also were not sure. The Ontario Human Rights Commission is clear on discrimination about religion in terms of housing, Click here for the report  but this doesn’t seem to extend to other forms of discrimination.

I’ll continue my research and let you know.

Personally, I would respond that discrimination is illegal and that our duty of Obedience does not extend to breaking the law and that we cannot obey their instructions. But that’s me – I’m a bit edgy and some say, little excessive in my ethical navigation.

My inquiries to lawyers turned up some very interesting facts. Did you know that some places in Ontario still have restrictive covenants against some religious groups?  Who would have believed that in this day and age!