Last Update: 02/24/16
As we all know, most real estate agents selling both commercial and residential real estate make their living by traveling by car along Florida’s oceanfront freeways, suburban streets, and rural wetland roads. Florida is a place where everyone pretty much drives to get to their destination, especially in the summer months when Florida’s heat is notoriously steamy, to say the least.
And with all of this traveling, Florida real estate professionals undertake a special kind of on the job risk as they busily show homes (including all of those foreclosures and short sales), meet potential sellers and set-up open houses. It can be dangerous being a real estate agent here in South Florida, especially for those real estate agents who work alone. In fact, the National Association of Realtors specifically offers suggestions on dealing with these risks and how Realtors can avoid certain dangers and harm. This list of suggestions, such as always using the buddy system and always letting someone know where you are and when you’ll be there, can be found online here. Fortunately, Miami and the South Florida area has not been included in a recent listing of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Cities for Real Estate Agents.
In our real estate practice, we come into contact with many real estate agents and brokers and we recognize all that they do to boost and benefit the Florida real estate industry. It’s great that the National Association of Realtors is providing support regarding safety issues. Anything to help to keep these very important players in our housing recovery safe, is a good idea. However, that’s not the only good idea the national association has for its agents. The association also provides its members with information on what the best practices are for acting as an ethical real estate agent.
National Realtor on ABC-TV Pointing Out The Signs of a Bad Realtor
It’s reassuring to see that Realtors are policing themselves in public by educating everyone on the signs of a bad real estate professional. For example, there was the discussion given on the ABC-TV Show “20-20” by the star of Bravo-TV’s reality show, “Million Dollar Listing New York,” Ryan Serhant.
Ryan Serhant is a real estate agent working in the New York City market, and he was interviewed on the ABC show “20-20” to share “inside secrets” about what some real estate agents and brokers may be tempted to do in order to get a sale completed.
Serhant explains that some real estate agents are tempted to do things like placing false real estate listings on the web just to get people to call; failing to reveal bad things about the real estate being offered such as termites, etc., and being misleading in their descriptions of properties listed for sale.
Florida Laws Protect Against Bad Acts by Florida Real Estate Agents
In Florida, there are laws on the books to protect against the bad acts of real estate agents. Some of the things described by Ryan Serhant – for example failing to reveal that a property has been infiltrated by termites – are against the law here.
For instance, Florida Statute 475.25 states:
(1) The commission … may suspend a license, registration, or permit for a period not exceeding 10 years; may revoke a license, registration, or permit; may impose an administrative fine not to exceed $5,000 for each count or separate offense; and may issue a reprimand, and any or all of the foregoing, if it finds that the licensee, registrant, permittee, or applicant: …
(b) Has been guilty of fraud, misrepresentation, concealment, false promises, false pretenses, dishonest dealing by trick, scheme, or device, culpable negligence, or breach of trust in any business transaction in this state or any other state, nation, or territory; has violated a duty imposed upon her or him by law or by the terms of a listing contract, written, oral, express, or implied, in a real estate transaction; has aided, assisted, or conspired with any other person engaged in any such misconduct and in furtherance thereof; or has formed an intent, design, or scheme to engage in any such misconduct and committed an overt act in furtherance of such intent, design, or scheme. It is immaterial to the guilt of the licensee that the victim or intended victim of the misconduct has sustained no damage or loss; that the damage or loss has been settled and paid after discovery of the misconduct; or that such victim or intended victim was a customer or a person in confidential relation with the licensee or was an identified member of the general public.
If necessary, Florida real estate agents who do bad acts can face legal consequences for doing the wrong thing. It’s important to know that not all Florida realtors are untrustworthy and that real estate agents as a whole are active in protecting themselves and their profession from these bad actors.
Florida laws exist to provide vehicles for justice when someone is harmed by a bad act done by a Florida real estate agent – if that agent does cross the line. The agent may lose their license, and may face civil damages for fraud, deceptive practices, and other civil actions.
A good piece of advice when you and your family are purchasing or selling your family home in one of the biggest transactions of your life is to at least talk with a Florida real estate lawyer. Getting someone to review all of the paperwork isn’t as costly as most of us think it is. And, it’s always a lot cheaper than paying to fix a problem after a closing occurs. Most real estate lawyers, like Larry Tolchinsky, offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person, whichever you prefer) to answer your questions.
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