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Big Questions in Real Estate

How is My Real Estate Agent Regulated? And, What Do I Do if I Feel My Rights Have Been Violated? PART II

If a few attorneys have said “no” to your case, your next step is to contact your local Association of Realtors. In Southwest Florida, there are 5 associations: Royal Palm (Cape Coral and Fort Myers), Sanibel Island, Bonita Springs, Naples, and Marco Island.

Each of these 5 local associations is inside of the Florida Association, which is inside of the National Association of Realtors. So, you can contact any of them to file a complaint.

The Association will allow you to report a “Code of Ethics” violation. Then, they may dismiss the complaint, or they may take up the complaint and hold hearings.

Any hearing or other proceedings at the Association of Realtors would seek to uncover whether an Article of the Realtor Code of Ethics was violated.

Included in the 17 Articles of the Code of Ethics is agreement that financial disputes will be arbitrated, and that other disputes can be mediated. Realtor Association Arbitration is generally binding (by contract.) Realtor Association Mediation may or may not result in a binding contract.

What do I do if I feel my rights have been violated, but neither attorneys nor the association will take my claim?

One additional step you can take is to notify the licensing body, or The Florida Department of Professional Regulation. Inside of this licensing body, there is a 7-member board called the Florida Real Estate Commission. If they feel a law may have been violated, they have the “quasi-judicial” power to subpoena witnesses, hold hearings, issue fines and other penalties, and even suspend or revoke licenses.

The FREC also has the right, if they find a crime has been committed by a licensee, to use the Real Estate Recovery Fund. This is somewhat like a public insurance policy for Florida residents. The Fund tops out at $50,000 in recovery per transaction. So, this is enough to reimburse most financial losses, including misappropriated commissions, or conversion (theft of) escrow funds.

What’s the bottom line?

Let’s say, for example, that you feel your Realtor wronged you to the tune of $3,500. In this case, no attorney is going to file your claim. And, let’s say that you don’t feel comfortable filing a small claim on your own. You still have two really good options:

  1. Seek a Code of Ethics violation by filing a complaint at the Association.
  2. 2. Seek a legal violation by filing a complaint with the DBPR.

Either party has the capacity to issue penalties to the Realtor, and to potentially reimburse you the $3,500.

So, how often do violations occur?

Just like every other industry, complaints against Florida Realtors do occur. Many complaints are thrown out immediately; some are heard, then thrown out; and others do result in penalties, fines, and consumer reimbursement.

There are many thousands of outstanding people in the Florida real estate industry. But, if you meet one who behaves in a way that is less than professional, you have three authorities who wield the right to make you “whole” again.

If you have any questions, please email Daniel at larsonpublishing@gmail.com

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