Kudos to the California Bureau of Real Estate for a smart new rule that could get unethical agents into trouble more quickly. One of the biggest problems in the real estate industry in California is that agents who are accused of committing unethical acts, or those who break laws or rules, were subject to a lengthy process of administrative hearings. The agent or broker could continue to work in the industry for a long time until it was found they actually did something wrong (and many claims are not even investigated because there is not enough people-power to do so – but that is a story for another blog).
Here are the highlights of the new rule, which was announced this month:
1. Citations issued more quickly. The new rule, referred to as “cite and fine,” will give the BRE the authority to issue citations and assess fines prior to hearings. The rules apply to both real estate professionals and those who practice real estate without licenses (those without licenses will likely be subject to higher fines).Â Fines will go up to $2500.
Here is how the new rule will work. Once a complaint is filed, the administrators will conduct an investigation, audit or examination of records. Action will be taken depending on the type and degree of the violation. Most minor offenses (such as failure to include the agent’s BRE license number on first point of contact marketing materials) will be subject to fines.
2. Offender names will be available via public record. Names of those who are cited and/or fined will not appear on the BRE website or under the licensee’s record, it will appear in the public records for anyone who chooses to submit a request through the Public Records Act.
3.Â Money collected from fines will go to a good cause. All the money collected by the BRE from offending licensees and non-licensees will go into a fund that helps victims of real estate fraud. Again – kudos to the BRE.
This new citation and fine system is a step in the right direction toward the prevention of rules and ethics violations in the real estate industry. Hopefully the BRE will continue to refine policies AND licensing and training requirements. I will keep my hopes up that this is the first in a succession of positive moves to make the real estate industry more professional and respected.