If you are a holder of a real estate broker license in San Diego, and you have been served with a statement of issues or a formal complaint, your professional reputation and license may be at risk. This is why you should hire a skilled real estate license defense attorney as quickly as possible to obtain expert legal advice on the best steps to take.
According to its official website, the primary goal of the California Department of Real Estate is to promote and safeguard the interests of the public concerning real estate issues through regulation, licensure, enforcement, and education. If any person launches a complaint against you at the Department of Real Estate, it will be taken very seriously. Be sure that they will investigate the allegation and subject you to some disciplinary measures, even if it may have no merit. Unless you build an excellent defense strategy, you will be at risk of losing your professional license.
We at the San Diego License Attorney have extensive experience in helping real estate brokers protect their professional licenses. We have in-depth familiarity with all the procedures, laws, and regulations involved in defending real estate professionals. Over the years, we have represented numerous individuals facing different allegations at the California Department of Real Estate. We have also helped individuals who have not been successful in applying for their real estate broker licenses, yet they have all the qualifications, manage to get them. Contact us to learn more about our services.
The Crucial Roles of Real Estate Agents and Brokers
The California Department of Real Estate licenses both real estate agents and brokers. Both real estate agents and brokers have a crucial role in helping the members of the public access proper and decent housing.
Real Estate Brokers
Real estate brokers usually invest their money on land within California, with the aim of it accruing interest and marketing it to potential buyers. Land is a limited resource in the state of California, but real estate brokers make it possible for members of the public to access it easily.
Real estate brokers assist Californians in transferring real estate properties legally and in negotiating on the conditions and terms of leases and sales. They are also the middlemen between sellers and buyers, and they should ensure that both of these parties have abided by the contractual terms. In some situations, real estate brokers may even take care of part of the financing of the transaction.
Some brokers may manage sales teams. The members of these teams may act as real estate brokers, yet in reality, they are just representing the actual broker. These team members may violate various California’s real estate laws, but it is the licensed broker who will be put to blame.
Real estate brokers must be well-versed with all the real estate laws of California. They must also remain updated on the current state of federal and local economies to market real estate properties within affordable price ranges. Before they complete a real estate transaction, they must evaluate how the property was appraised and assess whether other professionals who took part in the transaction process have done a quality job.
By the nature of their work, real estate brokers are exposed to almost all types of criminal charges and potential lawsuits. Individuals may also make formal complaints against them to the California Department of Real Estate.
Real Estate Agents
Real estate agents connect sellers and buyers of real estate properties. The most common duties of real estate agents include price negotiations and market research. Real estate agents should ensure that the transactions have been completed legally, and there was no occurrence of fraud.
For you to succeed in your profession as a real estate agent, you must have extensive knowledge of real estate properties, people, and markets. Also, you must always be upfront to potential investors, yet tactful. You will be exposed to plenty of uncertain and tense situations, and your clients will rely on you to give them professional advice. You also know that each of your clients can give you a referral, and your primary goal is to offer them a high-quality service for you to grow.
Besides constantly interacting with sellers and buyers, real estate agents have to put up with inspectors, escrow officers, appraisers, and any other professional who is involved in the transaction. They should clearly understand the roles of these professionals to ensure they do not mess up the transaction process.
During the entire transaction process, you must adhere to California's real estate laws and regulations. You must act in the best interests of your clients, and facilitate proper and full disclosure to both parties in an appropriate and timely manner.
What is the Role of the California Department of Real Estate?
The primary role of the California Department of Real Estate is to protect Californians from financial harm or fraud in all real estate related matters. For it to fulfill its primary role, it only issues real estate agent’s and broker’s licenses to qualified candidates. It also enacts real estate regulations to maintain high standards within the industry, and it enforces them through various disciplinary actions.
The most common violations that may subject real estate agents and brokers to formal discipline include:
- Working without a professional license
- Being investigated for a real estate violation by a real estate department of another state or another California-based agency
- Exceeding the limits of your expertise or license
- Criminal conduct after you had received your license or failure to disclose any felony or misdemeanor convictions when you were applying for your license
- Failure to supervise assistants who work under you
- Unprofessional conduct
- Real estate misrepresentations and fraud to your clients about the substantial facts that can influence them to make an informed decision
- Not maintaining accurate trust fund records
The above list contains the highest reported types of allegations against realtors in California. There are other allegations that realtors may face. The California Department of Real Estate enforces the following disciplinary measures against real estate agents and brokers:
- Private or public letters of reprimand. These letters may injure your reputation and make you unable to acquire more clients or become hired.
- Desist and refrain orders. This is the least severe disciplinary measure, and it is just a written order that states you should stop committing the allegation.
- Administrative fines. The value of the fines may be relatively minor to extremely hefty, per the severity and nature of the allegation.
- License revocation or suspension. If your license is suspended, you will have to halt your practice for a specific period. On the other hand, if the Department of Real Estate revokes your license, you will stop practicing indefinitely.
- License probation with a stay of revocation. You may be ordered to serve a probation term, in which you will have to adhere to certain strict conditions in lieu of your license being revoked.
- Criminal or civil penalties. If the allegation involves a civil or criminal offense, the Department of Real Estate may file charges against you in court, apart from being subjected to administrative disciplinary action.
The Disciplinary Process of the California Department of Real Estate
The California Department of Real Estate receives complaints from members of the public against its certified licensees continually. The Department may also trigger an investigation if it finds out that you have any criminal convictions or allegations.
Typically, the Department of Real Estate dismisses most of these complaints because they are 'unmerited.' However, the Department may dismiss some of the allegations not because they do not have merit; but because there is no sufficient evidence against the licensees. In some situations, the Department may initiate a serious and prolonged investigation process.
The Department may notify you that it has commenced an investigation process against you by sending you a 'notice of investigation' via mail. In some cases, it will act discreetly, and you may not know that it is investigating your conduct, especially if it believes that you may tamper with some of the evidence. The Department may also issue you a notice of an audit of your citation or business practices. If you believe that you are under investigation for a particular allegation, you should immediately get in touch with an experienced real estate license defense attorney.
If an investigator of the California Department of Real Estate reaches out to you, you should first consult with a license defense attorney before speaking to him/her. This way, you will avoid incriminating yourself unknowingly, or limiting the number of defenses you can utilize. Note that you should continually cooperate with the Department of Real Estate to avoid further administrative penalties in the investigation process. However, you still have a right to remain silent and ask an attorney to speak out on your behalf.
Sometimes, the Department may issue you an interim suspension. The main aim of an interim suspension is to stop you from practicing to pave the way for the investigation officers to collect sufficient evidence. You should fight this interim suspension since the investigation process may take a couple of months or even years, and it may leave you sidelined for a long period.
When the California Department of Real Estate believes that you have a case to answer, they will serve you a formal accusation that has a statement of issues. The statement of issues will give a comprehensive list of the allegations filed against you. You can respond and counter the complaints with a defense notice. Sometimes, your license defense attorney can help you obtain a negotiated settlement or a dismissal even before the administrative hearing takes place. In such situations, a formal hearing may not be necessary.
Your license defense attorney will prepare thoroughly for the formal hearing to defend you effectively. He/she will present both exculpatory and mitigating evidence that can help you win your case, and discredit the evidence of the prosecution. In situations where you cannot reasonably expect a victory due to overwhelming evidence against you, your attorney will ensure the Department subjects you to the least severe form of discipline for you to maintain your license and continue with your practice as a realtor.
How Criminal Convictions and Allegations can Make you Lose your License
According to the Business and Professions Code Section 10186.2, a realtor who has been charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony should notify the California Department of Real Estate of the charges. Likewise, the Department should be notified of all convictions, together with any disciplinary measures that other state and non-state agencies have imposed. These notifications should be put down in writing, and they should be done within 30 days from the date when the incident occurred.
The California Department of Real Estate may discipline you for the criminal conviction or charge if it is substantially related to your qualifications or duties as a realtor. Normally, the Department takes a ‘wide view’ on what can constitute a ‘substantial relation.’
Besides the risk of facing criminal penalties, being charged with a misdemeanor or a felony increases the chances of you losing your real estate professional license. This is why you should consult a license defense attorney when you have been charged with a criminal offense or if you have already been convicted.
Real Estate License Application Denials
For you to be considered eligible for a professional real estate license in California, you must fulfill the following conditions:
- Must be at least 18 years or older
- Must complete 135 hours of required pre-licensing education
- Get a licensed California real estate professional who will supervise you for a specific period
- Apply and pass the California Salesperson License Exam
- Submit the requisite application for the real estate license, which includes a comprehensive background check, fingerprinting, and payment of the application fees
The real estate license application process is hectic and tedious, and it may take a couple of months. Successfully completing the application is not a guarantee that the Department of Real Estate will license you. The Department may deny your license for various reasons. Still, the most common reasons include having a criminal conviction on your record, failing to disclose the conviction, acting as a realtor without being licensed, and being subjected to disciplinary measures in the past by another state or federal agency.
You can file an appeal to overturn the Department’s decision to deny your license application. When you have filed an appeal, the Department of Real Estate will initiate the proceedings via a statement of issues. The Department will serve you the statement of issues, and you will have to respond to it within 15 days. If these 15 days lapse and you fail to respond, you will not be permitted to appeal the license application denial.
An administrative hearing may be organized solely to determine whether the Department has reasonable grounds to deny your real estate license application. If you intend to appeal a license application denial, you shouldn't initiate the process without the help of an experienced license attorney. Such an attorney knows what information to present to the Department to support your license application and the potential outcomes of your appeal. He/she will make sure that your case is resolved quickly for you to start practicing as a realtor.
How a Real Estate License Defense Attorney can assist you
Real estate license defense attorneys help realtors, brokers, developers, realty education institutions, mortgage experts, property managers, and any other professionals in the real estate industry with skilled representation and expert advice. Real estate license defense attorneys can help you in building an excellent defense strategy to fight all forms of disciplinary measures, from citations to letters of reprimand to revocations and suspensions.
Individuals who would like to lodge a complaint against a real estate agent or broker must do so within three years from the date when the alleged violation occurred. When this timeframe lapses and they still complain about you to the California Department of Real Estate, your attorney will most likely get it to be summarily dismissed.
Your license defense attorney will help you to file a notice of defense if the Department of Real Estate serves you with a statement of issues. He/she can negotiate for you a dismissal even before the administrative hearing is conducted, or enter into a plea bargaining agreement with the Department. If the hearing takes place, your license defense attorney will speak out for you and ensure you obtain the most favorable outcome. A real estate license defense attorney can also help you challenge the decision of the Department if it denies your license application, go through an audit initiated by the Department, petition to obtain a reinstatement on your revoked license, or appeal to the Superior Court against a disciplinary measure.
Find a San Diego Real Estate License Defense Attorney Near Me
We at the San Diego License Attorney are well-equipped to help you protect your real estate professional license. All you need to do is to get in touch with us to discuss your situation. We will assist you in building a solid defense, and if necessary, in negotiating the most favorable outcome for you to continue your practice. Call us today at 619-728-7448 for a free consultation.