The Department of Business and Professional Regulation is in charge of regulating and licensing nearly 400,000 professionals in over 25 different professions across Florida. The Division of Real Estate is the group responsible for providing examinations, real estate licensing, and regulating those licenses.
With over 250,000 real estate agents across the state, they are responsible for ensuring and upholding the ethical standards buyers and purchasers expect when working with an agent. It’s a large group and requires quite a lot of work to maintain those expectations.
Other groups who have oversight of real estate licensing include The Florida Real Estate Commission (FREC) This self-governing body made up of seven members who enforce and administer real estate license law, Chapter 475, Part I, Florida Statutes. The Commission also has the power to pass rules that allow it to implement the duties and responsibilities its authority demands.
Yet another party with oversight is The Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board (FREAB). Made up of nine members, they administer and enforces the real estate appraiser license law. Chapter 475, Part II, Florida Statutes. Like the FREC, this Board is also empowered to pass rules that enable it to implement its statutorily authorized duties and responsibilities.
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Types of Real Estate Complaints
A complaint against a realtor is an allegation of misconduct or violation of the law by that realtor. If someone files a complaint against you, your license as a real estate agent may be put in jeopardy.
Common complaints against a real estate agent include:
- Practicing without a valid or current license.
- Poor record keeping or failing to follow the document submission requirements laid out by the state.
- Conflicts of interest, Collusion, or Conspiracy.
- Fraud – If the real estate agent or real estate broker willingly or intentionally deceived someone by misrepresenting the truth or failed to report when they had the moral obligation to say something.
- Misappropriating Funds – improperly using escrow funds, using client money for personal use, or embezzlement.
- Negligence – failure to supervise an employee or sponsored salesperson.
- Crimes of Moral Turpitude – conduct contrary to good morals, accepted custom, honesty, or justice.
How the Complaint Process Works
When a complaint filed is against you as a realtor, one of two things happens. Either it is sent to the DBPR through its Division of Real Estate, or it goes to the FREC. If the DBPR takes up the case, they will see if any state laws have been broken. They will also see if the rules of another governing body, like the FREC, have been broken and ensure those bodies are notified of the issue.
They will notify you of the complaint and ask that you respond with any and all information and documentation that supports your response. If you receive this notice, it is your first opportunity to hire an attorney to help in your representation. It is also the best time to get a real estate license attorney involved to ensure they can walk you through the proper steps and make sure you are providing the correct documentation.
If the DBPR does decide to open an investigation they will submit a report to a group called the “Probable Cause Panel. The Panel consists of two members appointed from the FREC and they have 30 days to determine whether probable cause exists or not. It is important to note that many cases do not make it to this panel. The DBPR does not put forward vague or unsubstantiated claims.
The Panel has the authority to make several different decisions. They may fully dismiss the complaint with no repercussions and no need for the agent or broker to make any changes. They might decide to dismiss the case through a Letter of Guidance which would recommend changes or actions the realtor or broker should take. In some cases, however, they will determine that there is a probable cause of an infraction and the process will move forward into a Formal Complaint against the real estate agent, broker, or other licensees.
The Formal Complaint Process
If a Formal Complaint moves forward from the Probable Cause Panel it will list any charges against you. There are three ways you have to respond to these charges and you should consult with your lawyer about which one would work best for your case. Those options are:
- Request a Settlement of Penalty. This will be reviewed by and either approved or denied by the FREC.
- Choose not to dispute the charges and ask for an Informal Hearing in front of the Commission in an effort to resolve the charges brought against you.
- Dispute the charges and allegations against you and request a Formal Hearing before the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings which is presided over by an Administrative Law Judge.
Informal Hearing Process
Your attorney and you have the option to address a minor infraction through an Informal Hearing. In this, the Commission will hear your case and make a decision on what sanctions or penalties to impose if any. They may issue:
- A Notice of Noncompliance – a warning for a small violation that you have to correct or address within 15 days.
- A Letter of Reprimand – which will be placed in your file with the Commission and describes the incidence of misconduct and that it resulted in no disciplinary action.
- A Citation – some violations will result in a fine that can range from $100 – $1000 depending on their severity.
- A Notice of Probation – this would allow you to continue practicing while imposing conditions and instructions to be followed under the guidance of the FREC.
The Formal Hearing
Formal Hearings occur if they are requested by the licensee, or if the matter could not be addressed by the Informal Hearing. If you are disputing the allegations made against you, then a Formal Hearing is the best option to move forward.
A Formal Hearing follows a similar process to that of a typical court case. Each party presents the facts, evidence, and witnesses they have gathered to an Administrative Law Judge. That Judge will then issue their ruling in the form of a Conclusive Order. If the agent or broker is found to have violated the law, this Order will recommend penalties to be assessed. It will also be forwarded to the DBPR.
The Final Order
If they choose to do so, the FREC may, on the recommendation of the Judge’s Conclusive Order, issue a Final Order. They may also choose to accept, modify, or reject the Judge’s order as they see fit.
From here they may choose to assess any of the following penalties:
- License Suspension – they may choose to suspend your real estate license for as long as 10 years if it is deemed the best course of action.
- License Revocation – you may permanently lose your license to practice real estate in the state of Florida.
- Fines – a fine of as much as $5,000 could be assessed against you.
If you received one of these judgments and you believe you should not have, you have 30 days to appeal before the Final Order is put into effect. After that time, the judgment is enforceable by law.
When to Contact an Experienced License Defense Attorneys
The best time to contact one of our Real Estate License Defense Lawyers is as early in the process as possible. The day you receive notice is the day you call us. We can help guide you through the process and assist you in determining the appropriate response based on the allegations of the complaint.
If you have already responded, we would still welcome the opportunity to assist you and make sure you are providing the correct information. Often a complaint will go forward, not because of any wrong-doing on your part, but due to incomplete or incorrect information being sent to the Commission. Let us help ensure the right information gets to them to assist in your defense.
If you attempt to resolve the dispute on your own it is possible for you to lose your license and end your career in real estate. Even some of the lesser penalties you could face can cause serious harm to your livelihood and your future.
Call the offices of Jordan Law. We understand the process of disputing a complaint against your real estate license and will aggressively defend you. Regardless of where you are in the complaint process, we would be happy to help you in reviewing your case and determining the best course of action for you to take. Call us today!