Sample Ethics Case Study on Bullard Houses


The Bullard Houses Case presents a case in which various challenges are faced by both principles. For the seller, the main challenge faced, and which is associated with various ethical concerns is how to dispose of the Bullard Houses at minimum cost and with maximum profitability. For the buyer, the challenge relates to providing a politically acceptable solution that the mayor will accept. Choosing the best solution to the challenge faced requires understanding the ethical implications of each alternative option, and weighing the implications against those of others.

Central Ethical Issues

Each of the parties that would be involved in the decision as to what to do with the houses has to address its own potential self-interests to some extent. For the seller, the key ethical issues of concern here would be displacement effect of gentrification of the lands. Selling off the property immediately, would mean displacing the poor, who have signed the agreement to leave in the next six months, which seems to be unethical. Similarly, the buyer faces the same dilemma in that they have only 5 days to close the deal, which means that by purchasing the property, they would also be displacing the current poor residents. Additionally, the buyer faces an ethical dilemma in the need to purchase the property without disclosing the identity of the buyer or the buyer’s intention of purchasing the property.

Potential Self-Interests and Duties of the Parties

Both principals involved in the Bullard Houses Case have their self-interests in the case. For the seller, the potential self-interest centre on the need to profit from the investment made on the property as Downtown Realty continues to incur costs in maintaining the building. The self-interest of Downtown’s agent in this case therefore, would be to get a solution that will enable the company sell off the property at the highest price possible, as soon as possible and thus avoid further expenses in maintaining the property.

The buyer’s interests on the other hand, are centred on getting a facility that would be renovated to fit the high status of the hotel, at an affordable cost (valued at slightly more than the alternative), within a very short timeframe and without disclosing their identity of the intention for which the houses are being purchased to the public. To realize this interest, the buyer needs to respond to the seller by sending in their bid for the property, which should be higher than other bids received. The seller on the other hand, needs to respond to the buyer with either an acceptance or rejection of the bid. The seller may however need the information that the buyer currently intends to hold on to.

Evaluation of Alternative Options

For the seller, two options are available namely, to focus on profitability and sell the property as soon as possible without regard for the poor who still live there, or to stick to the initial plan of giving the current tenants up to six months to vacate. The utilitarian perspective to ethics is applied in analysing the pros and cons of the two options. The utilitarian perspective considers an act as ethical based on its capacity to maximize good. Selling the property will result in more positive outcomes for many people in that the seller would gain in terms of a return on their investment; the buyer would be able to satisfy their self-interest, and whatever they use the Bullard Houses for would benefit a larger number of people; Gotham County Council will benefit from increased revenue. The only probable negative aspects of this option are that the tenants currently living in the building will have to vacate, and the landmark status of the building may be lost. Since the building is already nearly empty and the seller has promised to remunerate the existing tenants as they leave, this impact cannot be considered significant.

For the buyer, the first option is to give information about the buyer and the intended purpose and then buy the building, while the second option is to hide the information. Through the utilitarian perspective, the first option would result in good because of transparency needs but is also likely to result in more negative outcomes in case the bid is rejected by Gotham County Council. The second option is most likely to result in wider benefits to more people including the seller, Gotham County Council and even the buyer. The only potential negative effect is the failure of Gotham County Council to approve the intended renovation and use of the building as an hotel, which would result in loss only for the buyer. Furthermore, hiding the information in itself cannot be considered unethical at this time since first, revealing the information would do more harm than good; and secondly, hiding said information does not potentially result in negative decisions by any of the parties. This is because Absentia will be paying more than the bid prices offered by other potential buyers and the Landmark Commission and the Zoning Board are also under increasing pressure to let go of the prohibitions on gentrification.

Ethical Choices and Possible Outcomes

The most ethical choice for the Downtown Realty, Inc. is to sell the property to the highest bidder and to compensate the current residents of Bullard Houses. For the buyer, the most ethical choice would be to conceal information on buyer identity and the intended use of the building after purchase. The combination of these options will be beneficial to both principals. However, the status of the Bullard Houses as a historic landmark will change. At the same time, using the renovated Bullard Houses as a high-end hotel could still earn Gotham County Council significant amounts of revenue.

Preparation to make the Right Choice

Both principals in this case have to conduct due diligence on the pros and cons of all alternatives available to them. For instance, the seller has multiple potential buyers who can purchase the property both within a short time and after the 6 months initially set for the tenants to vacate. The buyer’s agent on the other hand, has the responsibility of ensuring that while information about the buyer’s identity and the intention of purchase for the property remain concealed, alternative plans are made to ensure that any negative ramifications of hiding the information.


The decision to sell Bullard Property is based on the financial pressure on Downtown Realty, Inc. The company has different potential buyers and various interests are to be pursued by both the buyer and the seller. The utilitarian theory explains the consideration of an act as ethical when it has the most positive impacts on the greatest number of people. From this basis, it is recommended that Downtown Realty should proceed to sell the property to the highest bidder and compensate the current residents, while Absentia, as the agent of Milton’s Hotel, should proceed to buy the property without revealing information about the buyer or the intended use of the property.