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Real Estate Non-Compliance Complaints Being Reviewed by State

By: Hank Lerner, Esq. on in  | 

Since Gov. Tom Wolf’s business closure order due to the coronavirus was issued on March 19, most Pennsylvania Realtors® have been doing their best to follow that directive. But members have been asking where to go if it looks like a licensee may not be in compliance in some way.

First, if you see an agent who appears to be out of compliance, you (or your broker) should contact the other broker directly before considering any sort of formal complaint. For one thing, there may be a reason why a specific action is acceptable under the current rules. Further, feedback from members and local associations suggests that non-compliant agents are often acting against the direction of their own brokers, so once the broker is aware they may be able to more effectively shut down those activities.

If that conversation doesn’t work to your satisfaction, the next step could be a complaint to the state. Licensure complaints are handled through the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs.

Bureau staff has confirmed to PAR that prosecutors are reviewing complaints based on alleged non-compliance with the business closure orders, and that investigators following up on those complaints.

Investigators have been instructed to contact brokers (not individual salespersons) by phone, and to identify themselves as state investigators at the start of the call. If you are contacted by someone identifying themselves as an investigator, it is acceptable to ask them to provide email verification of their position so you can check to see that they have an appropriate <pa.gov> email address.

But it is important to understand how that process works so you know how to make that effective.

If you want to file a complaint with the state, the correct route is to file through PALS, with as much detail as possible, so the complaint is quickly and effectively routed within the state’s process.

More specifically, if you want your complaint to move ahead, then don’t do any of the following:

  • Don’t file a PALS complaint without details (e.g., “Agents in my market are not staying at home as they should”). Without specifics there’s nothing to investigate.
  • Don’t email information directly to the State Real Estate Commission’s listed email address. Though we often say “file a complaint with the commission,” initial complaints are actually handled elsewhere within the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (don’t worry about the details; trust us) and staff cannot forward your information into PALS as an actual complaint.
  • Don’t contact individual real estate commissioners. If individual commissioners hear too much about a particular case, they may need to recuse themselves if that case eventually ends up in front of them for a final determination.
  • Don’t send emails or anonymous letters to PAR or your local association. The associations have no control over the bureau’s process and will not file complaints on your behalf.

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Comments (2)

Comments

  • Yarrow Wilkins Heil   April 14, 2020 at 10:49 am

    As a Broker, I am seeing this come up daily, particularly with foreclosures and vacant properties. STAY HOME MEANS STAY HOME! Thank you for the article and keeping us up to date as new information becomes available.

    Reply to Yarrow Wilkins Heil
  • Kenneth Enochs Jr   April 14, 2020 at 12:00 pm

    Great Article! Thank you succinctly articulating the proper steps that should be taken by all with any concern or issue, not just those potentially violating the state mandate right now. As all real estate agents work under a real estate broker, they should always be communicating their concerns to their broker first. The broker and perhaps the agent can work together to decide how to address the concern following the recommendations above. Usually it is a simple as a phone call to the other broker. This challenging time presents an opportunity for real estate brokers to updated their policies and procedures and implement new measures to protect themselves and their businesses as well as their employees, agents, and clients.

    Reply to Kenneth Enochs Jr

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