Published by Kartik Subramaniam
The real estate industry is highly regulated, with each state granting licenses to individuals who complete specific studies and pass certification exams. Like any other type of license, a real estate license is a privilege and can be taken away if an agent fails to abide by regulations set on the federal level or by their state.
This means individuals who act unprofessionally and, as a result, receive a suspension cannot perform any real estate function requiring a license. Below are 10 common activities agents should avoid lest they face the consequences associated with a license suspension.
Real estate agents must always pay careful attention when handling a client’s money. Many agents who mishandle money don’t do so intentionally, but can still lead to a suspension (although stealing client money is a huge no-no obviously). In addition to losing a license, criminal charges could accompany the suspension. To avoid money mismanagement, agents should never use a personal account, always maintain accurate bank records, and ensure clients receive receipts for any transactions.
Agents are required to be transparent about any financial interests they have to all other parties involved in a potential real estate transaction. An example would be if the agent is the buyer, seller, or investor of a property and asks a family member to represent them in the transaction. This rule is put into place to avoid possible conflicts of interests, however, by being upfront and honest by issuing full disclosure of personal interests in transactions, agents can keep their licenses intact. Another example is if an agent convinces a seller to not disclose certain types of problems with a home to make it easier to sell.
Real estate agents convicted of crimes can potentially lose their licenses. How license losses are dealt with for criminal convictions will vary by state. The State of California is a no-nonsense state when it comes to prior or post-licensing criminal convictions. All agents must submit to a criminal background check and fingerprinting which stays on record. Individuals who receive their license and commit a crime, especially a felony, can find their license suspended. (The crime doesn’t have to be related to real estate.)
Agents engaging in mortgage fraud are highly likely to lose their licenses. This scenario typically unfolds when a client isn’t approved for a mortgage and the agent decides to adjust figures or disclose false information to make the sale and tells the client they were approved. This is not just a license suspension activity, it’s a criminal offense..
If a regulatory agency receives a complaint or other red flag during an audit related to a specific agent, they’ll follow up with an investigation. Agents who ignore the requests of regulatory agencies or otherwise act uncooperatively can find themselves in hot water, including a potential loss of a license.
A common reason why agents lose their license is they get too busy to follow up on their continuing education (CE), which is a requirement in most instances (specifics are determined by individual states). This can be avoided by not leaving CE needed for licensing requirements to the last minute or skipping them.
Good real estate agents know the boundaries of what is in their realm and what’s best left up to other professionals. For instance, an agent should never try to offer advice that is outside their area of expertise. Examples would be inspectors, attorneys, and appraisers—if questionsor concerns arise, they should always be routed to the right individual.
Anything clients tell their agents should be assumed to be confidential. This includes occupation, marital status, family members’ names, or other personal details a client shares. For instance, if a real estate agent nets a huge sale for a celebrity, this cannot be disclosed publicly because it violates the privacy of the high-profile individual.
The Fair Housing Act was designed to prevent people being discriminated against when they looked to sell, buy, or rent property. This act prohibits discrimination in housing due to race, sex, color, national origin, religion, disability, or familial status. Violations of the Fair Housing Act are serious offenses and agents will lose their license.
Real estate brokers are responsible for any sales agents they work with and it’s their duty to ensure all agents comply with regulatory standards. To avoid failure to supervise, brokers can provide ongoing training, require regular check-ins, conduct license monitoring, and offer an open-door policy for agents.
These are 10 major reasons why real estate agents lose licenses. However, there are numerous other acts that lead to license suspensions. Real estate professionals are wise to thoroughly understand both federal and state rules to ensure they don’t inadvertently break them.
Are you ready to get your real estate license?
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