A class action suit has been filed against Windermere Real Estate and RE/MAX Acorn Properties that alleges the companies did not properly disclose the dangers of jet noise to homebuyers.
The lawsuit, filed Nov. 18 in Island County Superior Court, states that the Realtors’ “deceptive acts or practices have occurred in their trade or businesses and were and are capable of deceiving a substantial portion of the public.”
Only two plaintiffs are identified by name, but the class action suit asks for injunctive relief for anyone who purchased real estate located in the county’s Airport Environs Mapped Impacted Areas on or after May 11, 1992.
In response to criticism by residents about the standard real estate noise disclosure, Island County Realtors updated their version of Form 22W in January through the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
The previous one-paragraph incarnation of the disclosure was deemed incomplete by Island County Planning Director David Wechner, who issued a memo that spurred the change.
The Navy is transitioning to the Growler from the EA-6B Prowler and residents throughout the region claim the Growler is louder and more disruptive, igniting the noise disclosure debate.
The plaintiffs named in the suit are Jonathan Deegan, who purchased his Coupeville home through RE/MAX in 2006, and Alice O’Grady, who purchased her Coupeville home through Windermere in 2011, according to court documents. Neither could be reached for comment.
The suit claims that both Deegan and Grady received only the “inadequate Form 22W” at the time they purchased their homes.
Seattle law firm Terrell, Marshall, Daudt & Willie filed the lawsuit and sent out a letter in May seeking possible plaintiffs. While only two people are named, the suit states that the class will be “in the hundreds or thousands.”
“I have not seen the complaint yet, so I cannot comment on the specifics of this case, but I am aware that some off-island and out-of-state attorneys have been urging homeowners to sue Realtors, claiming they were not told about aircraft noise when they bought their homes,” said Eric Mitten, Windermere spokesperson, in an emailed statement Friday. “In our company, we make sure prospective buyers are aware of the airplane noise. We talk about the airplane noise. We also use standard written disclosure forms printed by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, which provides us with the forms most Realtors use in residential real estate transactions in the state.
“I’m astonished that anyone who has spent any time on Whidbey Island would say they were not aware of the noise.”
A main contention of the litigation is that even though the noise disclosure has been updated to mirror county code, realtors are still not providing the county’s map of the impacted areas.
The county’s Airport and Aircraft Operations Noise Disclosure Ordinance, which contains the required language, also states that the impacted areas are identified on the “attached map.”
In a rough drawing, the county’s map shows all of Whidbey Island north of Lake Hancock as the “impacted areas.” It also includes areas surrounding the Camano and South Whidbey air parks.
Failure to include both the map and the language “about the magnitude and timing of military flight operations as part of pre-sale notices” in real estate transactions is “unfair” and “offends public policy,” the attorneys state.
“As a direct and approximate result of defendants’ unfair acts or practices, plaintiffs and class members suffered injury in fact and lost money because they paid more for their real estate property on Whidbey Island than that property was worth and their property will sell for less when it is resold,” according to court documents.
The lawyers are asking a judge to approve their class action status, damages, a modification of the disclosure forms, attorneys fees and any other relief deemed proper.