Open House Theft Translates to Lawsuit for Midwest Realty Ventures

by Peter Thomas Ricci


An open house theft in Highland Park has translated into a pending lawsuit for Winnetka-based Midwest Realty Ventures, a Prudential Rubloff affiliate.

By Peter Ricci

An open house theft in Highland Park has translated into a pending lawsuit for Winnetka-based Midwest Realty Ventures, a Prudential Rubloff affiliate that operates throughout the North Shore.

According to a number of reports on the incident, including dispatches from the Sun Times and CBS Chicago, Highland Park resident Lena Katamanin is suing the brokerage for unspecified damages on $162,000 worth of jewelry that was stolen during an April 22 open house.

Open House Nightmare for Midwest Realty Ventures

According to reports, Katamanin’s lawsuit alleges that Midwest Realty Ventures had “sole control” over her property during the open house, and, because of its “careless and negligent acts,” are thus liable for the theft; Katamanin’s property is located in the 900 block of Sheridan Road.

The suit requests a jury trial, but interestingly, as the Sun Times reported, the suit does not mention whether or not the alleged theft was reported to the police, and the Highland Park police have not commented on the lawsuit.

Guarding Against Theft at Open Houses

Open houses, as the Midwest Realty Ventures scenario demonstrates, can be ripe settings for theft, and not just the jewelry and other, more obvious valuables. As this Yahoo! op-ed points out, drugs and pharmaceuticals are also a common source of theft at open houses.

Although theft is not uncommon in open houses, such incidents are normally handled through insurance firms (either representing the homeowners, the brokerage, or both) rather than the courts. For protection of all the parties, it is considered best practice to address the liabilities of open houses in the listing agreements.

And in the end, it pays to be careful with your open houses, so make sure that you are following these steps:

  • Hide any valuables, particularly jewelry, medications or any other small, easily-pocketed items.
  • In addition, try not to flaunt the home’s wealth, so that you’re not enticing any foul play.
  • And finally, securely lock any sections of the home that are not part of the open house, and seal off any hallways that you’re not monitoring.

For some extra tips on open house safety, consult this helpful article from InsureMe, and be sure to revisit our most recent issue on open houses, which included a feature on safety.

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  • Diana Ivas says:

    Scary news. We better have the seller sign a disclaimer that the agent is not responsible for such an occurrence that could happen at an Open House.

  • Linda says:

    Watch out for an agent also. I was asked to handle an agent’s business for about a week while she was on vacation. When she was back she asked me if I had taken the owner’s jewelry. I had no clue at all where and what this owner had in jewelry and I’d had only TWO shows in that time frame. Each time I was with all of the people looking with their agents. I was thorougly angry just hearing the question and the agent realized that. About a week later I was told by the agent the owner had left all the jewelry in a solid vase in the kitchen and the cleaning lady saw the jewelry in this vase after the complaint. I didn’t believe it for ONE SECOND. I believe the agent had taken the jewelry and knew she couldn’t blame the theft on me if I called the agents who did the showings that were aware I had met them outside at the same time they came and left at the same time being careful to lock up. This agent stole from my mother without my knowledge – it was my mother who informed me.

  • KN says:

    In this day and age, I question the wisdom of open houses in occupied homes. Should we throw open those doors and permit anyone and everyone to wander through? The odds of obtaining a qualified buyer for that particular property are low. The likelihood of open house visitors being unqualified, or curious neighbors, or decor-idea shoppers or larceny minded rogues far outweighs any benefit. I understand that it is a prospecting tool, and a way to meet prospective home buyers or even sellers. But at what risk to the homeowner?

    I do feel that open houses are vital on new construction homes, but why the need on resales? We have virtual tours that offer more than a taste of the property to prospective buyers, who can then move forward with a showing. Open houses seem like a sales tool from another era to me, and one whose time has waned.

  • A few years ago I had viewed a system that could scan a driver’s license and log open house activity.(Similar to the system Target uses to scan a license to sell video games) A sign would be placed outside of the house that reads, -Please have an ID available upon entering this home-
    When the open house agent gets back to the office all the information could be uploaded into a system. Obviously if the buyers were with an agent then the agent would log in the same way using their ID. Now we have a track record of who was in the house and at what time. As a buyer’s agent this system was also able to have your buyer’s information in the system. As their agent when they viewed a home using this technology you would be sent a report on Monday as to the homes they viewed.

    In this day and age, someone needs to come up with a solid solution to avoid these kind of disasters.

    JoAnn Sworan
    Real Estate CSO
    Credit Solutions for Real Estate Buyers

  • shondra fuller baylor hugdas says:

    i.d theft shondrafuller@yahoo.com fraud alert nt thrid world ingnore shondra2 fraud email usa baylor

  • Diane Kwiatt says:

    Thank you for the article

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