Last week, I was prospecting in New York — it’s something I do occasionally with larger firms. We explore how we can work with their individual producers, but only under the condition that these producers invest in themselves.

While entering one particular building, I could not help but notice a large inflatable rat by the entrance of the building. Yes, right there in Midtown!

As it turns out, the rat was, in fact, put there specifically in relation to the prospect I was meeting! You see, the company I was meeting with manages and leases several buildings in the New York tri-state area. One of their buildings (in this case, in Connecticut) purportedly had an issue regarding some of it’s electrical work. It turns out, the unions of New York did not appreciate the non-union work that was done and felt it was shoddy. In response to this, they felt the building was a hazard to its occupants and wanted to shame the leasing/management firm.

Now, whether these claims were true or not — did not matter. It was the accusation made against the commercial real estate firm that made the existence of the rat so impactful. Not only did the unions inflate the rat and place it by the building of the commercial real estate firm’s headquarters, they also handed out flyers with the firm’s managing broker’s name, highlighting him as a violator of the union’s self-defined criteria of acceptable work. As you can imagine, the landlord of the building was not pleased.

While this practice of unions and inflatable rats are generally limited to a small number of markets throughout the United States, I ask you to think about what impact it would have on you if you were accused (falsely or not) of shoddy work. How would you react to someone putting a big inflatable rat in front of your office (no matter what market you’re in), and then claiming that you were unprofessional as a commercial real estate broker?

What plan of action do you have as far as covering yourself from false accusations, or worse, when you make a mistake? Every single commercial real estate professional should have errors and omission coverage in one way or another. Heck, we’re not a brokerage firm and even we have E&O coverage.

Next time you go out and represent a client, a building, a financing, sale, or lease opportunity – continue to check and double-check your work. If you don’t – you, too, could be called out as a rat within your own market.