I came across an interesting case in my Real Estate Law class textbook (one of the classes I am taking for my real estate broker's exam) - it involves a real estate agent who used the key in a multiple-listing lockbox to show a home. While the listing indicated the house was occupied, the agent discovered it to be unfurnished, except for some stereos and television sets in cabinets and closets. The agent contacted the police, who searched the house, discovering stolen property as well as illegal drugs. (People v. Jaquez - 1984 - 163 C.A.3d 918).
The question posed is this: Was the agents action proper in contacting the police?
In my opinion, I felt that the agent was not acting properly in contacting the police, as the mere presence of stereos and televisions does not necessarily mean the property was stolen. If the agent was there simply to show the home to a prospective buyer, and the home is supposed to be furnished according to the listing, they should not be making assumptions as to the origin of the sellers personal items found in the home - for all the agent knows, the seller could be in the process of moving out, and the items found were the last of his personal belongings.
The actual Court decision is as follows: "The Court held that a real estate agent is authorized to consent to the entry ONLY of persons the agent believes to be potential purchasers. This would clearly exclude the police. The search was improper, as the police could not have reasonably believed that the agent had authority to consent to a search."
(from 'California Real Estate Law', Sixth Edition; by William H. Pivar & Robert J. Bruss; c. 2003, 2006)