“CAUTION”—Realtors ® pay attention

Caution--Realtors pay attention

When In Doubt Disclose

I am writing to all Realtors® because I see constant violations of laws, rules, regulations, and ethics of both State of Alabama and the federal government. To use one of my favorite phrases, “if you’re driving down a highway and look in the rear view mirror to see a blue light flashing; it’s too late to be concerned about how fast you were driving. The damage has already been done.” So it is in the practice of real estate. Once you receive a citation for a violation, you will have to suffer the consequences. You can’t simply say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know I was violating a law.”  Realtors® are professional members of the largest industry in the world. We are supposed to know the laws that govern us and abide by them.

The things I consistently see real estate agents violate in disclosure laws vary in nature. As Realtors® we are always to disclose that we are Realtors®, most especially if we are talking to consumers about possibly buying their property or selling them property that we or a part of our family actually owns interest in. To let this disclosure slip our minds is not acceptable.

Perhaps one of the disclosures most violated is in the marketing process. Whether we’re marketing property to sell for a specific client or we’re marketing ourselves to attract prospective buyers and sellers. Marketing is making use of multiple media sources such as websites, emails, social media, printed advertisements and etc. In all media sources, Realtors® are to disclose the company name, office address, phone number, and certain disclosures specific to the type real estate practices an individual specializes. Some states also require media disclosures to include their state license number.

National franchised companies have specialized disclosures that must be specific to emails, websites, and etc. which states that each individual office is independently owned and managed. These disclosures by no means replace nor nullify other state and federal disclosures.

A good example of this is a new law dealing with financially distressed property owners. On January 31, 2011, a law was placed into effect by the Federal Trade Commission known as the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Ruling (MARS).  This law requires anyone assisting a consumer in getting a loan modification, or assisting them to sell their property as a “Short Sale” must make certain disclosures in all media sources along with other specified stipulations for record keeping and etc.  This law has recently been amended to relieve some of the requirements for real estate agents specific to short sales. Even though the law has changed in some specific areas, I have seen agents that specialize in selling financially distressed properties omit federally required disclosures.

Media disclosures are almost always omitted in social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and etc. Alabama License Law requires that Realtors® disclose the company name and business address in all media sources. On websites, this disclosure is to be made on every page in the website.

I am not focusing on any one specific violation. I’m only giving you examples of places that certain disclosures must be made. My intent today is to get real estate agents that read this message to think about possible violations that are incorporated in their daily practices. It is up to us as professionals to seek out all laws, rules and regulations that govern us and then abide by them. I hate to see anyone get into trouble that might cost them financially, or put a blemish on their record. I believe that an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.

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