Dear Real Estate Adviser,
My broker agreed to sell my house to a buyer while I was out of the country for several weeks, and he fraudulently signed my name, which was not even close to my signature, to the sales contract. Now the buyer wants to sue me because I refuse to close the deal. What is my legal standing here?
At face value, this appears to be a case of fraud for which your rogue broker could lose his license, be fined, sued or even prosecuted. But before you act, you should first reread your listing contract with said broker to determine exactly what you authorized him to do in your lengthy absence. While there could be some gray areas here, forging your signature was likely not on that sanctioned to-do list.
If your agent indeed signed a document without your authorization, his agency needs to hear about it as soon as possible, as does your jurisdiction's real estate authority. A list of real estate regulators can be found at Arello.org, the Web site of the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials, if you're not sure who to contact. A talk with the attorney general's office also might be in order. Cases of real estate agents illegally pushing through sales to net big commissions have been prosecuted more frequently in the last few years as law enforcement takes a closer look at mortgage fraud.
Also, the buyer needs to be expressly shown that the sales agreement was signed without your permission. You or the buyer's agent can show the buyer your forged signature and your real signature. The buyer's lender should also be notified that there was an alleged forgery or fraud involved in the transaction. It is hoped this all will deter the buyer from suing you. While it's unlikely the buyer will pursue the matter against you, there's certainly no guarantee.
Although it always pains me to say this, you may need a real estate lawyer or similarly qualified attorney to help you sort this thing out and deal with the angry buyer. If worse comes to worst, you may have to go to court and bring in a handwriting expert to verify your forged signature. I sure hope you can avoid all the hassle.
Here's wishing you can get this resolved with a minimum of pain!