Reaction to Filing of Class Action Lawsuit

Reaction to the Filing of the Class Action Lawsuit

Real estate company representatives offered quotes for the Whidbey News Times article, “Class-action lawsuit taking aim at Whidbey real estate companies.”

Eric Mitten, speaking for Windermere in Oak Harbor and Coupeville said,

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.

Mr. Mitten claims attorneys are the problem, not real estate companies who failed to provide legally required information to buyers who desperately needed it.  He also claims not disclosing “airport noise” is the problem.  The problem is that his company did not, as the law required, disclose the presence of a military jet installation with flights occurring day and night reaching decibel levels in excess of 100 dBA.  Real estate companies were also required to provide the map prepared by the Navy to show where each home being considered for purchase is located relative to military jet flight paths. Many are directly under the flight paths, less than a mile from the runway, where the impact on health and quality of life would be obvious. 

Now, unfortunately, people who would have said “no” to jets shrieking out more than 100 decibels are trapped directly under Growlers producing 119 decibels, just 250 feet above their homes.  That is four times louder than the 100 decibels disclosed, because sound doubles with every 10 dBA increase.  That is also more than eight times louder than the 85 decibel maximum that health officials and the Navy deem to be safe.   And, there is no end in sight to the number of Growlers the Navy intends to fly.

He also said this about “customer care” at Windermere and the responsibility of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service:

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.

Why did realtors decide to talk about “airplane noise” instead of military jet aircraft noise as required by law?  They each create a very different perception.  And why did they decide to “talk about it” instead of providing written disclosure?

Eric Mitten’s company is obligated to the realtors working there to provide them with forms that that are consistent with Island County law. It must be determined why the NWMLS provided island real estate companies with forms that were not.  The 1992 law was written because the security of the base depends on disclosure that protects buyers.

People who move to Whidbey Island to become our neighbors must be protected by legal disclosure.  They have the right to a dream that does not end in disaster.  Despite knowing that many people buy here that have not previously lived here, Mr. Mitten said:

I’m astonished that anyone who has spent any time on Whidbey Island would say they were not aware of the noise.

Over the 18 months following the 2013 injunction, jets rarely flew at the OLF.  The flights then resumed.  The question remains, why not just tell buyers about the jet noise on a disclosure that all parties sign?

Terri Neilon, owner of RE/MAX Acorn Properties, also commented.  She said,

The litigation could be divisive and help fuel efforts by those who want NAS Whidbey severely cut back or closed.

The Island myth that buyers were told and have no reason to complain has been horribly divisive.  For years, people who live directly under military jets have been ridiculed when they complained and were told to “shut up or move.”  The myth also prevented protective measures that might have been taken by the Navy and legislators over the last 22 years who all assumed the law to disclosure “the full extent of the noise” was being followed.

What role did real estate companies play to “fuel efforts” that could have a negative impact on the base?  People were not given information to which they were entitled, their lives were severely affected, and they reacted in a very predictable way when they understood their loss.  How much less would the conflict be if the myth was true and the only people living in the noise zones had been fully informed and had chosen life with the jets?

Ms. Neilon also said:

We care about our clients and certainly make sure they are aware of the noise. We also tell clients to do their own due diligence — check it out, talk to others and go to the property and listen to the planes flying overhead. Planes from NAS Whidbey are very effective at making people aware of their presence.

Very “friendly” advice, but very illegal disclosure. The disclosure was intended to protected realtors, but certainly not their clients.

Planes at the OLF are not apparent unless they are flying.  Read the Disclosure Stories of people who were not told, did preform due diligence, did not get the information they deserved, and ended up trapped under the jets.

In summary

Noise Annoyance negatively affects health and quality of life. People call the police because they don’t like their neighbor’s music.  People who benefit from extreme jet noise are going to be much more accepting of it than people who were deprived of the opportunity to buy somewhere else. They deserved protection which had been and still is the intention of the Island County law that was not followed.

This controversy will be settled in the court system.  For details of the case, read Whidbey Noise Complaint.

For additional comments made by Eric Mitten and others in December of 2013 when the community was first told by the Island County Prosecutor that realtors were not following the law, see Realtors Defend and Realtors Comment.


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