As an appraiser, you have completed all the coursework and passed the examinations necessary to obtain your licensing or certification under Texas law. However, if you receive notice that someone has filed a complaint against you with the Texas Appraiser Licensing & Certification Board (TALCB), you likely feel overwhelmed and unsure where to turn first. No matter how unfounded the allegations against you may be, you should always take disciplinary complaints seriously to protect your professional certification and career. Contacting an experienced Texas appraiser license defense lawyer should be your first step if you receive notice of a complaint against you.
TALCB and Appraiser Licenses
TALCB licenses four different classes of appraises under Texas law:
- Appraiser Trainee
- Licensed Residential Appraiser
- Certified Residential Appraiser
- Certified General Appraiser
Additionally, TALCB regulates Appraiser Continuing Education Providers, Temporary Non-Resident Appraiser Registrations, and Appraisal Management Companies. As a result, TALCB has the authority to bring disciplinary action against individuals or entities who violate the rules and laws applicable to this profession. These disciplinary proceedings can affect appraisers’ licenses.
Overview of the Complaint Process
Members of the public, TALCB staff members, and TALCB board members can all file complaints against licensed and certified appraisers for violating the applicable provisions of the Texas Occupations Code and TALCB Rules.
Initial Determinations by TALCB
TALCB prioritizes complaints containing allegations of violations that pose a high risk of public harm. These violations include those that evidence serious deficiencies, including:
- Identity theft;
- Unlicensed activity;
- Ethical violations;
- Violations of appraiser independence; or
- Other conduct determined by the Board that poses a significant risk of public harm; and were done with knowledge, deliberately, willfully, or with gross negligence.
When TALCB receives a complaint, staff members first determine whether TALCB has jurisdiction over the allegations in the complaint. For instance, complaints concerning the valuation of assets or business practices do not fall within the jurisdiction of TALCB. Staff members also will assess whether:
- the case might warrant dismissal;
- there is evidence of a potential violation that may warrant disciplinary action; or
- the complaint should be referred to the high-risk team due to a high risk of public harm, as explained above.
If TALCB believes it has jurisdiction over the complaint and sufficient evidence of a potential violation, staff will assign an investigator to open a complaint and further investigate the allegations.
Responding to the Complaint
Once TALCB opens a complaint for further investigation, staff will notify the respondent or the appraiser who is the subject of the complaint. This notice will contain a copy of the complaint and supporting materials, a complaint questionnaire, and instructions on how and when to submit a response to the complaint. The respondent has 20 days to submit a response, although they can request an extension of that period if necessary. As part of the response, the respondent must include:
- A copy of the appraisal report;
- A copy of the respondent’s work file associated with the appraisal listed in the complaint, with a statement signed under oath that it is a true and correct copy of the work file without additions or removals;
- A narrative response that addresses every allegation in the complaint;
- A list of any persons who have personal knowledge of the matter, as well as their contact information, if known;
- Any documentation supporting the respondent’s position that was not in the work file, as long as it was conspicuously labeled as non-work file documentation and kept separately from the work file; and
- A completed, signed, and dated questionnaire provided by TALCB.
Potential Sanctions for Violations
Once the investigation is complete, the investigator refers the complaint to the TALCB legal staff for review and disposition. Legal staff will recommend to the director of TALCB whether non-disciplinary or disciplinary sanctions are appropriate.
If the investigation reveals insufficient evidence of violations or first or second-time minor deficiencies, TALCB can dismiss the complaint. Alternative non-disciplinary dispositions include:
- Dismissal with a non-disciplinary warning letter
- Contingent dismissal when the violation can be remedied through mentorship or education
Contingent dismissal may be appropriate when the violations are minor or even when a violation is more serious, but the respondent has no previous disciplinary history. However, contingent dismissal is no longer an option once the case has proceeded to a contested hearing.
Legal staff will recommend the appropriate action if disciplinary action is warranted according to the penalty matrix found in 22 Tex. Admin. Code § 153.24(o)(3) and §159.204(m)(3). Potential disciplinary sanctions can include the following:
- Remedial measures:
- Required adoption of written preventative policies or procedures;
- Probationary period with provisions for monitoring an appraiser’s practice;
- Restrictions on supervising trainees;
- Restrictions on scope of practice;
- Administrative penalty;
- Period of Suspension; or
TALCB can resolve the complaint by entering an Agreed Order with the respondent containing a sanction. The parties also have the opportunity to engage in alternative dispute resolution, such as negotiations or mediation. Otherwise, a resolution of the case will come from a TALCB order following a contested hearing at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).
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Defend Yourself Against Disciplinary Proceedings Involving Your Appraiser License
Don’t allow an isolated complaint to wreak havoc on your career. Losing your ability to support yourself will only worsen your situation. If you are facing the loss of your appraiser license or certification for any reason, we can help you take the steps necessary to challenge your disciplinary proceedings. Contact a professional appraiser license defense attorney at Bertolino LLP, for advice today. Make an appointment by calling (512) 515-9518 or contact us online to see how we can help.