The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) licenses and regulates real estate professionals, including real estate sales agents. These professionals are subject to the Texas laws and TREC rules that govern them. If real estate agents violate those rules or laws, including those concerning advertising, TREC investigates and takes enforcement action as needed. Disciplinary actions against real estate licenses can lead to a loss of licensure and other severe consequences. Therefore, having a real estate license defense attorney on your side can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.
Complaints that TREC Handles
Members of the public and other real estate professionals can file complaints before TREC within four years of the incident that is the subject of the complaint. However, TREC only handles disputes concerning alleged violations of the rules and laws that govern real estate professionals. Individuals with other complaints about real estate professionals, including personal or contractual disputes with real estate agents, must pursue them through independent civil litigation. Likewise, TREC will not address rude, unprofessional, disparaging, or offensive comments on social media, except if the matter concerns unlawful discrimination by a real estate professional during a real estate action.
Advertising Rules for Real Estate Agents and Brokers
TREC can only enact certain advertising restrictions on real estate agents. Specifically, under Tex. Occ. Code §1101.156, TREC may not adopt any rules that restrict advertising or competitive bidding by a person regulated by TREC except to prohibit a false, misleading, or deceptive practice by the person. This section explicitly prohibits TREC from including any of the following in its advertising rules:
- Restrictions on the use of any advertising medium;
- Restrictions on the person’s personal appearance or use of the person’s voice in an advertisement;
- Restrictions relating to the size or duration of an advertisement used by the person;
- Restrictions on the person’s advertisement under an assumed or trade name that is authorized by a law of this state and registered with the commission; or
- Restrictions on the term “broker,” “agent,” or a similar designation or term, a reference to the commission, or the person’s license number to be included in the person’s advertisement.
22 Tex. Admin. Code §535.155 outlines the requirements for advertisements by real estate agents. All advertisements must contain the name of the licensed individual placing the advertisement and the broker’s name in at least half the size of the largest contact information for any sales agent, associated broker, or team name. This information must be in a readily noticeable location in the advertisement. If the advertisement is on social media, it may be on a separate page, so long as it is readily accessible via direct link and readily noticeable on the separate page on the user account profile.
Tex. Occ. Code §1101.652(23) states that real estate agents can face disciplinary action if they publish or cause to be published advertisements that:
- Mislead or are likely to deceive the public;
- Tend to create a misleading impression;
- Imply that a sales agent is responsible for the operation of the broker’s real estate brokerage business; or
- Fail to include the name of the broker for whom the license holder acts, which name may be the licensed name, assumed name, or trade name of the broker as authorized by a law of this state and registered with the TREC.
For the section cited above, 22 Tex. Admin. Code §535.155(d) states that an advertisement is misleading or likely to deceive the public, tends to create a misleading impression, or implies that a sales agent is responsible for the operation of the broker’s real estate brokerage business, if it:
Types of Disciplinary Sanctions
Real estate agents and other real estate professionals regulated by TREC can face various sanctions if TREC finds that they have violated any rules or laws that govern them, including advertising rules. These sanctions may include the following:
- Monetary fees
- Injunctive action
- License suspension
- License revocation
If a violation occurs, TREC will send a written Notice of Alleged Violation (NOAV) to the real estate agent, who has 30 days to respond. The real estate agent may either accept the recommended sanction and sign an agreement or request a hearing on the violation, the proposed penalty, or both. Under Tex. Occ. Code §1101.657, if the real estate agent requests a hearing, an administrative law judge at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) will hold a hearing before to determine the recommended sanction. Considering the administrative law judge’s proposed decision, TREC will ultimately determine the sanction.
Click to contact our professional license defense lawyers today
We Will Stand Up for Your Rights Before TREC
The experienced real estate license defense lawyers at Bertolino LLP, will defend you against any TREC disciplinary proceedings that you may be facing. We will investigate the complaint and allegations against you, evaluate the evidence, present your options, and devise the best defense strategy for your case. Together, we will work to clear your name and protect your real estate license. Call us at (512) 515-9518 or contact us online.