The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) licenses various real estate professionals, including real estate agents, brokers, inspectors, education providers, easement or right-of-way inspectors, and timeshare plans. TREC is also responsible for monitoring and enforcing TREC rules and Texas laws that pertain to these professionals. Violations of any of these rules or laws can result in disciplinary sanctions by TREC that could endanger your professional real estate licensure. A real estate license defense lawyer represents your interests in disciplinary proceedings before TREC and assists you in resolving those proceedings.
Real estate professionals must follow many rules and laws to avoid complaints and disciplinary action against their licenses before TREC. Although many scenarios can lead to disciplinary complaints against real estate professionals, the disciplinary process works similarly regardless of the type of complaint or real estate professional involved. Understanding how the TREC disciplinary process works can be critical to a successful outcome in your case.
TREC and Complaints
The Standards and Enforcement Services (SES) of TREC receives complaints from former clients or any third parties who believe that a real estate professional licensed by TREC has violated either the Real Estate License Act or TREC rules. In most cases, these complaints relate to a transaction involving a home, misleading or false advertising, or unlicensed activity by an alleged real estate professional. Generally, individuals must file written complaints with TREC within four years of the alleged incident and provide copies of any documents necessary to substantiate their allegations.
When SES receives a complaint, its first duty is to determine whether TREC has jurisdiction over the allegations and the real estate professional who is the subject of the complaint. If SES decides it has jurisdiction over the complaint, it will forward a copy to the licensee, allow the licensee a chance to respond to the allegations, and launch an investigation into the complaint.
A complete investigation into the complaint can sometimes take as much as six months. Investigations vary, but investigators may interview the complaining party and witnesses and the collection of documents.
Disciplinary Proceedings Before TREC
Following the investigation, the investigator forwards the case to an SES attorney. They review the case and decide whether, based on the evidence, a violation of the laws or rules that govern real estate professionals has occurred. This stage also can take several months to complete.
If the attorney finds no violation has occurred, they will send a letter to all parties closing the complaint. The attorney also may choose to send a warning letter to the licensee about their actions, which becomes part of that licensee’s professional record. The warning letter may be considered by TREC if the licensee becomes involved in disciplinary proceedings in the future.
On the other hand, if the attorney finds that a violation has occurred, they are likely to recommend formal discipline. Recommended sanctions may include formal reprimands, administrative penalties or monetary fines, license suspension, or license revocation, depending on the severity of the misconduct.
You have two options if SES recommends formal discipline against your real estate professional license. You can accept the discipline as recommended, and/or your attorney can negotiate another agreed-upon form of discipline. Most complaints leading to disciplinary action are resolved in this informal manner, usually through an Agreed Order between TREC and the licensee. An Agreed Order contains certain terms and conditions you must follow for a specified period to avoid further disciplinary action against you. If you sign an Agreed Order, it becomes part of your formal professional disciplinary record. Therefore, it could have adverse consequences for you in the future and could impact any future disciplinary proceedings you may face.
Alternatively, you can reject the recommended discipline, and if you cannot agree on the matter, TREC will file formal disciplinary charges against you. At that point, you can request a contested hearing before the Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). SOAH assigns an administrative law judge (ALJ) to your case, who conducts an administrative hearing like a courtroom proceeding.
Although SOAH proceedings are administrative, you must adhere to a special set of SOAH rules of procedure, which are quite technical. In particular, discovery rules in SOAH proceedings are more stringent than in regular court cases, and the consequences of failing to follow those rules can be quite severe. As a result, you will benefit from representation by an attorney with experience handling disciplinary cases before SOAH.
We Will Represent Your Interests Before TREC
The experienced real estate license defense lawyers at Bertolino LLP, will defend you in your TREC disciplinary proceedings to avoid or minimize unwanted sanctions. Our job is to investigate the complaint = against you, evaluate the allegations against you and the evidence supporting those allegations, explore your options, and determine the most effective and strategic defense for your case. Together, we will work to resolve your complaint and protect your real estate credentials. Call us at (512) 515-9518 or contact us online.