Last Update: 04/18/16
Be careful not to be the victim of an unlicensed real estate agent or real estate broker when buying or selling Florida real estate.
Real estate transactions that are based upon mistakes or fraud can cause serious harm to buyers and sellers — accordingly, the Florida real estate industry is heavily regulated — this has never been more true than the last few years of rampant foreclosure fraud.
Florida Real Estate Industry is Heavily Regulated
In Florida, laws written by our Legislature as well as court decisions act to protect both commercial real estate transactions and residential real estate deals. However, residential sales are offered much more protection because average citizens are not assumed to be as savvy as business persons in buying and selling property; thus, residential real estate is more vulnerable to wrongdoers taking advantage.
One of the ways that people are protected by Florida law from being hurt in the purchase or sale of a Florida home or condo is by the statutes requiring all real estate agents and real estate brokers to be licensed by the State of Florida.
Specifically, people who wish to work as real estate agents in the Sunshine State must meet the requirements of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (”DBPR”) in order to be issued an official license to act as a real estate professional here. That’s not all. Every year, they have to continue to meet the licensing requirements of the DBPR including keeping up with educational requirements and other prerequisites for maintaining their license in good standing.
Unlicensed Real Estate Agents Operate Illegally
Nevertheless, there are unscrupulous individuals who are active in the Florida marketplace who try to profit from real estate commissions without bothering to be officially licensed with the DBPR. Those people likely will not have the knowledge and expertise of a licensed Florida real estate agent, and even if they do, they may well not bother to adhere to the ethical considerations of licensed real estate professionals.
In Florida it is a serious crime to act as a real estate agent without being properly licensed. It is a felony under Florida Statute 489.127 to act as a real estate broker or a real estate agent in the State of Florida without proper licensure.
Not all unlicensed real estate agents are operating with criminal intent, but they are all outlaws in the sense that they are working illegally because they have failed to get a real estate license in order to do the work.
Dangers of Working With an Unlicensed Real Estate Agent or Broker
It is dangerous for buyers and sellers of Florida residential property to work with someone who is not vetted by the DBPR and properly licensed in good standing as a real estate professional. It is risky for the financial well being of those involved in the transaction, and it may sometimes be personally dangerous as well.
Think about it. Going to see empty properties with one of these Black Market agents may invite personal harm to you or your family in the form of theft or worse as well as risking your finances and money to someone who is operating under the radar.
Protecting Yourself Against an Unlicensed Real Estate Agent
The easiest way to make sure that you are protected against an unlicensed real estate agent is to ask for verification of a DBPR license. The DBPR website can also be used to confirm that a real estate agent or real estate broker is operating legally. Just go to www.MyFloridaLicense.com or call the DBPR at 1-850-487-1395.
If you have been working with an unlicensed real estate agent or broker, you may be thinking it will allow you to pay less in commissions or otherwise get a better deal. Don’t count on it. And if you do go through with a closing and later find you’ve been harmed by an unlicensed agent, then your legal remedies may be limited.
A large percentage of licensed real estate agents and licensed real estate brokers have protections in place (like errors and omissions insurance policies) in the event that someone is harmed in a real estate deal. Unlicensed agents rarely have the same protections set up for you, and the reality is that they may even be hard to locate after a closing and after the discovery that you’ve been harmed.
If you think you have been or may be involved with an unlicensed real estate agent in a Florida residential real estate transaction, then getting help from a Florida real estate lawyer can be invaluable in protecting you in what may be one of the biggest transactions of your lifetime, buying your family home or retirement condo. There may be ways to block or to minimize the harm here that a Florida real estate attorney can explain and implement to help you.
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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