Last Update: 04/18/16
As the name suggests, the Florida Association of Realtors’ (“Florida Realtors”) membership primarily includes Florida real estate agents and brokers but it also includes other affiliated real estate related professions in the State of Florida (including, for example, appraisers, attorneys, banks/mortgage companies, home inspection companies and moving companies), and, as a result, it heralds itself online as “the largest trade association in the state with more than 127,000 members.” If you meet the group’s membership criteria and you pay their dues, then you can become a member of the association and enjoy all of the benefits that comes with being part of this large and powerful organization.
Part of its mission, is its dedication to helping its membership to learn about all aspects of the real estate industry. For example, there is an extensive website with lots of valuable information, including a video library, designed to provide its members with the latest tools and to promote ethical standards. There’s a daily newsletter which includes relevant news, business tips and market updates. The group also assists in promoting Florida real estate brokers and real estate agents and it also advocates for issues important to the real estate industry.
For example, the Florida Association of Realtors filed an appellate brief (amicus curaie) in a recent Florida Supreme Court case, Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. v. Phillips, dealing with the application of a state statute of limitations related to arbitration proceedings. Why? Their brief, filed as “friend of the court,” sought to bring before the highest civil court in the state their concerns regarding this limitations issue from a real estate broker/agent perspective.
However, Florida Realtors is not a legal agency (it does have a Code of Ethics which its members are required to follow even though failure to follow the code will not result in the loss of license or the award of damages to someone who has been wronged in a real estate deal – also, you cannot file a lawsuit based upon a member of the trade association failing to follow one of the organization’s ethics rules – although you can file a complaint with the group about any wrongdoing that may have happened).
The Florida Association of Realtors (”Florida Realtors”) is not the same as the Florida Real Estate Commission.
Real Estate Licensed Professionals Are Regulated and Overseen by the State of Florida
The Florida Real Estate Commission is a state agency that is a part of the the State of Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Real Estate (the other part is the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board). The Division of Real Estate is mandated by the Florida Legislature to protect the public by the regulation of those holding either Florida real estate licenses or Florida appraisal licenses.
Florida statutes are on the books that empower this agency to oversee and regulate real estate professionals and real estate appraisers. The Division of Real Estate allows someone to be licensed; makes sure they keep up with the latest rules, requirements, laws, and regulations that apply to their job; and punishes them (including taking away that license) if they fail to comply with the Division’s demands.
The Florida Real Estate Commission
The Florida Real Estate Commission (FREC) administers and enforces Florida real estate license law as described in Florida Statutes Chapter 475, Part I. (See also Florida Statutes Chapters 20, 120, 215, and 455.) The Rules that the FREC passes to do its job are found in the Florida Administrative Code, Chapter 61J2.
If you have a problem with a Florida real estate agent or broker, then under Florida Statutes Chapter 475, you can file a formal complaint with the FREC which will begin the FREC’s own investigation process.
The FREC investigators are authorized to issue Notices Of Noncompliance or Citations With Fines to those licensed real estate professionals who are found to have committed a minor violation of Florida real estate law based upon the complaint. If the investigator finds a bigger violation may have happened, then there may be a prosecution of the case.
Lawsuit Against the Florida Real Estate Professional Filed in Florida Court (Maybe)
Neither the trade association, the Florida Association of Realtors / Florida Realtors, nor the state licensing agency, the Florida Real Estate Commission, is responsible for making sure that damages done to someone by a rogue real estate agent or broker here in Florida are recovered from the bad actor.
Civil claims (those arising from fraud or negligence) are based upon Florida common law and Florida statute; however, whether or not the controversy will be litigated in a courtroom or instead forced into arbitration proceedings under the terms of a contract will depend on the disputed issue. See., e.g., Shakespeare Foundation, Inc. v. Jackson, 61 So. 3d 1194 (Fla. 1st Dist. 2011).
A good piece of advice is to at least speak with an experienced Florida real estate lawyer to learn about your rights. 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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