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Mo. Bill Focuses on Sex Offender Home-Buyers

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Concern about protecting children has spurred a southwestern Missouri lawmaker to propose legislation that would require real estate agents to warn other people when they represent a prospective home buyer who is a sex offender.

But Rep. Charlie Davis said he is not pushing for his proposal to become law this year and merely wants to spark discussion. Davis said he focused first on real estate agents because they generally are involved whenever new people move into a community.

Sex offenders “have the right to live in a community if they want to, but it’s also the right of the families to know if there is a member in their community that is a convicted sex offender against children so we can make sure our children are aware of it and it doesn’t happen to them,” said Davis, R-Webb City.

The legislation calls for sex offenders who plan to buy property to report their criminal past to their real estate agent. The buyer’s real estate agent then would disclose that information in writing before the sale to the real estate agent for the seller. In addition, the buyer’s real estate agent would need to disclose a client’s sex offender status to neighbors living within a half-mile after the deal is completed.

Davis said the proposal stems in part from a personal situation. He said a friend built a subdivision in southwestern Missouri and had family members living there. Several years ago, he said, one home in the subdivision was sold to a man from California who, unbeknownst to others in the subdivision, was a sex offender.

The Missouri Association of Realtors said the proposal would mean real estate agents could face new liability if a neighbor does not receive the required notification after a sex offender buys a house. And not every home buyer uses an agent.

“While we do a lot of real estate business, the whole world doesn’t work through us,” said Sam Licklider, a lobbyist for the association.

Missouri in recent years has expanded the state’s public sex offender registry that is maintained by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. The registry now includes information about an offender’s physical description, vehicles, offenses and address. The state also has enacted other restrictions on sex offenders, including what they can do on Halloween.

Officials this year already are mulling nearly two dozen recommendations about training, awareness, mental health services and other changes to state law that come from a special child sex abuse task abuse. The 14-member task force has submitted its report to the governor, the Legislature and the State Board of Education.

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