When TREC Receives a Complaint
When TREC receives a complaint, it assigns the complaint a case number and reviews the complaint to determine whether TREC has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the complaint. In other words, TREC must determine whether the complaint concerns a violation of the law or rules governing real estate professionals. TREC also must ensure that the complaint relates to an incident that occurred within the four years before the complaint’s filing date.
Within 30 days, TREC will decide:
- whether it has jurisdiction over the complaint,
- whether it needs more information about the complaint, and
- whether there is reasonable cause to move forward with an investigation into the complaint
If TREC starts an investigation, it will provide you and any other real estate professional involved in the situation with a copy of the complaint. It also allows you and any other license holders to respond to the allegations in the complaint, generally within 14 days or within 15 days for real estate education providers.
TREC Field Investigations
TREC investigations typically take three to six months to complete. If TREC assigns an investigator to the case, the investigator will conduct interviews of witnesses by telephone and fact gather additional information if needed. The investigator may also interview witnesses in person, although this is a less common occurrence.
In some cases, TREC will not assign an investigator. Instead, TREC will gather information by submitting written questions to witnesses by letter. The witnesses then provide TREC with written responses.
Once a TREC investigator completes its investigation and report, the case goes to a TREC enforcement staff attorney. The attorney reviews the case and determines whether the evidence proves that a violation of the Real Estate License Act or TREC rules occurred. This review process may take several months to complete.t
Three Potential Outcomes for a TREC Complaint
If the TREC attorney finds no violation of Texas law or TREC rules, or there is insufficient evidence to prove a violation, the attorney can close your case without further action. In this situation, the attorney issues a letter to all parties closing the complaint.
The attorney can also issue you an advisory letter if the TREC attorney finds it appropriate to warn you about your actions. This is essentially a “wrist-slap”, but the letter does become part of your licensing record (although not public), and TREC can consider the letter in the future if it receives future complaints about you.
Finally, the TREC attorney may find that you have violated the law or TREC rules that warrant formal discipline.
Formal Discipline Proceedings for Real Estate Agents and Brokers
If the TREC attorney finds that you should be subject to formal discipline, you could receive monetary fines, a license suspension, or a license revocation. As a result, you must take immediate action to protect your license if formal discipline is a concern.
You can accept the recommended discipline in formal disciplinary proceedings, which closes the complaint by agreement. However, if you disagreed with the recommended discipline, TREC will serve you with a Petition and Notice of Alleged Violation. Your case is then scheduled for an evidentiary hearing at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).
TREC will present evidence to prove that you have violated the law or TREC rules at your hearing. You can then defend yourself by presenting counter evidence. Following the hearing, the judge has 60 days to issue a Proposal for Decision. TREC considers the Proposal for Decision during an open meeting and then issues a Final Order.
If you are facing an investigation by TREC, you need assistance in defending yourself and your license from the severe consequences of formal discipline. At Bertolino, LLP, we offer experienced license defense services for real estate professionals involved in TREC investigations and formal discipline proceedings. Contact us today by calling (512) 476-5757 or reach out online at https://www.belolaw.com/contact-us/. We can examine your case and help you devise the legal strategy that is best designed to safeguard your real estate license.