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Last Updated on: 13th September 2023, 12:20 am
Navigating Real Estate License Issues in California
As a real estate agent or broker in California, having your license investigated or facing disciplinary action from the Department of Real Estate (DRE) can be daunting. But with an experienced real estate license defense attorney on your side, you can better understand the process and protect your livelihood.
The lawyers who specialize in representing agents and brokers before the DRE know the complex real estate regulations inside and out. They can provide strategic guidance and advocacy to help you achieve the best possible outcome if your license comes under scrutiny.
Common Causes of DRE Investigations
There are many types of complaints that can trigger a DRE inquiry, including allegations of:
- Mishandling of client funds or trust account violations
- Misrepresentation or dishonesty in real estate transactions
- Practicing real estate activities without a valid, current license
- Failure to properly supervise licensees (brokers)
- Mortgage loan fraud or predatory lending practices
- Violations of agency disclosure laws
- Unprofessional conduct or negligence
While the majority of licensees operate ethically, complaints can happen – whether they have merit or not. The DRE takes all complaints seriously and will open an investigation if they find the allegations credible.
Responding to a DRE Investigation
If the DRE initiates an investigation about your conduct, it’s crucial to engage an experienced real estate license defense attorney right away. They can guide you in responding strategically to any DRE inquiry or audit request.
Your lawyer can identify any lack of evidence or procedural errors in the DRE’s case against you. If the allegations are unfounded, they may be able to get the charges dismissed before disciplinary action is taken. If some discipline is unavoidable, your lawyer can advocate for minimal penalties.
Mounting a Strong Defense
There are various defenses a knowledgeable real estate license attorney may use, such as:
- Challenging the legal validity and factual accuracy of the DRE’s claims
- Arguing you acted reasonably given the circumstances
- Asserting any client harm was minor and promptly fixed
- Emphasizing your otherwise clean disciplinary history
- Presenting mitigating factors to explain the conduct
In certain cases, voluntarily surrendering your license temporarily may be the most prudent strategy. An experienced attorney can advise if this is the best option.
The Disciplinary Hearing Process
If the DRE decides to take disciplinary action against your license, they must provide due process. This includes notifying you of the charges and allowing you to request a hearing.
In the hearing, your lawyer will argue against the allegations and present exculpatory evidence on your behalf. For minor first-time violations, they may be able to negotiate a settlement like additional education in lieu of discipline.
If the outcome is unfavorable, you have the right to appeal. Your lawyer handles filing the appeal and arguing why the discipline should be overturned, such as lack of substantial evidence.
Choosing the Right Lawyer
It’s important to retain a lawyer who specializes in real estate license issues versus general practitioners. Look for these credentials:
- In-depth knowledge of real estate regulations and disciplinary procedures
- Experience representing agents/brokers before the DRE
- Successful track record getting favorable outcomes
- Strong negotiation skills to secure settlements
- Litigation experience for appeals
- Local market knowledge and reputation
Also consider lawyers recommended by industry groups like CAR and NAR. Vet them thoroughly and choose someone who makes you feel comfortable and gives your case individualized attention.
Working Together for the Best Resolution
Facing potential discipline can be stressful. But an experienced real estate license defense lawyer will be your knowledgeable guide. While they handle the legal strategy, you play a role too by being responsive and diligent in following their counsel.
With a skilled lawyer on your side, you have a much greater chance of resolving the DRE inquiry favorably and continuing your real estate career with minimal disruption. Their representation can make all the difference.