Proper protocols in your business can ensure nothing gets lost in translation when you’re working with clients who don’t speak English. The real estate transaction is already complex and full of opportunities for misunderstandings, but there may be even more obstacles for non-English speaking clients trying to navigate a contract that is in English. The latest “Window to the Law” video from the National Association of REALTORS® highlights best practices for serving non-English speaking customers and how to avoid risks from potentially inaccurate translations.
Misinterpretations can happen, and real estate professionals can be found liable when they do. In one situation, a real estate broker was suspended and had his broker’s license revoked after serving as the interpreter in a transaction. He was accused of misrepresenting the terms of the English-language agreement to French-speaking buyers, NAR Associate Counsel Deanne Rymarowicz explains in the video.
Here are some of her tips for ensuring a smoother transaction when working with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) clients:
- Use a translator. Be skeptical of Google Translate or other automated translation tools. “Even if you are fluent in the other languages, consider using a third party to translate documents for the client,” Rymarowicz suggests.
- Put it in writing. Use an interpreter or translator agreement, which should establish who will serve as the client’s interpreter, their relationship to the client and whether they will assist the client through the entire transaction or part of it, such as closing or the home inspection, Rymarowicz says. “The agreement should also disclaim any broker liability for incorrect translations,” she adds.
- Find extra resources. For example, the EPA already offers translations of its Lead-Based Paint Disclosure, which is available in 11 languages. Fannie Mae provides translations of its essential loan forms in five languages. Many state and local REALTOR® associations offer translated copies of key forms and contracts. NAR en Español offers Spanish-language resources for home sellers and buyers.
- Ensure understanding. “If a contract is translated, ensure that the LEP client understands that the translation is only provided to facilitate their understanding and that the transaction will be governed by the English documents,” says Rymarowicz.