lawbookAccording to a Maryland Real Estate Attorney, the answer is a resounding, maybe.

Real estate agents don't practice law, but we are allowed to create simple addenda, and fill in blank spaces on board approved contracts and addenda. Recently, I received an offer on a listing that used an addendum from a neighboring association. When I get these I spend a little extra time making sure I understand what the addendum is attempting to do.

The provision I had trouble with read:

7. HOLDING DEPOSIT CHECK: It is understood and agreed by all Parties that the Buyer has instructed the Escrow Agent to hold and not deposit the above described deposit check until _________ Days after Ratification at which time said check shall be deposited. In the blank field the buyer and selling agent had placed 12 days.

Messing around with escrow money deposits is one of those areas that get real estate agents and brokers in a lot of trouble.

Since Maryland Law normally requires brokers to deposit escrow monies in 7 business days from contract ratification, the fill in the blank addendum would appear to be in conflict with this requirement.  There is a provision in the law that may allow buyers and sellers to give escrow money direction to brokers, but it seems more related to withdrawal and investment direction only.

Here's the problem, according to the Attorney.  It hasn't been tested in court yet whether a buyer/seller direction can override the seven day deposit requirement in the law.  That makes sense, but it can also put agents and brokers in unnecessary jeopardy.

Many people believe that real estate practitioners make too much money for the work we do. Part of our, and our broker's compensation, is a result of the risk we're exposed to in each transaction.

In my case, I wasn't ready to be a test case, so we countered that clause back to 7 days and moved on to ratification from there.

For the most part, fill in the blank addenda are just fine, and this one may be too.  I'm not ready to be the test case so a precedent can be determined.

I generally follow my gut instinct and err on the side of caution.  It's served me well so far.


Richard Iarossi, REALTOR®
Long and Foster® Real Estate, Inc.
Crofton, MD 21114
410-451-6255 Office
443-995-9595 Cell

Annapolis MD Real Estate Specialist
Bowie MD Real Estate Specialist
Crofton MD Real Estate Specialist 

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 Richard Iarossi is a full time licensed REALTOR®, working in Crofton, MD. My coverage areas are: Anne Arundel, Prince George’s, Howard, Calvert, Queen Anne, and Baltimore City and County. I specialize in residential real estate, working with both buyers and sellers. Use the registration free search on my website at If you’re not already working with a REALTOR®...I can help. Call me at 443-995-9595 (Cell) or 410-451-6255 (Office).

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Comment balloon 9 commentsRichard Iarossi • November 19 2008 05:51AM


Richard,acting as a contract lawyer is a huge subject for debate..and one of the biggest things that ends with the broker defending the sales agreement in court. The best advise I could give your readers is fill in the blanks only, if either side wants to alter the boiler-plate language it's time to have an attorney to write the contract

Posted by Steve Loynd, 800-926-5653, White Mountains NH ( Alpine Lakes Real Estate Inc., ) over 8 years ago

Steve, I agree and never advocate trying to amend the contract language. The problem with this board approved addendum is that it may allow an agent to break the law by what they fill in in the blank space. That just isn't right.

Posted by Richard Iarossi, Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 8 years ago

Any checks that I accept are made out to Century 21 Award and given to my broker within 24 hours. They are resposible for holding it, cashing it, returning it, or whatever.

Posted by Jim Frimmer, Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist (HomeSmart Realty West) over 8 years ago

Sounds like you had it under control.  =)  The escrow checks sometimes make me nervous.  I don't like to be responsible for thousands of dollars that don't belong to me.  As soon as I get them I throw them at our GBC who puts them in a safe until they go up to the trust account.

Posted by Jenn Neumann Deer, Surfside Beach Real Estate (RE/MAX Southern Shores) over 8 years ago

Jim,  Same process here except made out to Long and Foster. The sooner it's out of my hands after ratification, the better.

Jenn,  I give them to our administrator but she doesn't have a safe.  Just a tough old bird.

Posted by Richard Iarossi, Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 8 years ago


Real estate law exists for the protection of the consumer. If the consumer willingly agrees to modify a provision of the law (but not eliminate it), seems OK in concept. :)


Posted by Steve Hoffacker, Aging-In-Place Specialist-Instructor (Steve Hoffacker LLC) over 8 years ago


I always think the broker has the final say when it comes to writing clauses. Is it the practice of law to put a client's wishes in writing? The is only a question that can be answered by the courts.

Posted by Richard Weisser, Richard Weisser Retired Real Estate Professional (Richard Weisser Realty) over 8 years ago

Steve, I don't believe that consumers can just willingly change the law, even if it suits their purpose. Can you imagine what might happen in other circumstances?

Richard, That's the rub. Only the court can tell whether it's acceptable or not. I'm not willing to be the "test case" just to determine precedent.

Posted by Richard Iarossi, Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 8 years ago

Hey, Richard. You should get a subscription to Real Law Central. You'd have a blast with the many real estate court cases that they cover.

Posted by Not a real person over 8 years ago

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