A bill passed during the 87th Texas Legislative Session moved the regulation of residential service companies, also known as home warranty companies, from the Texas Real Estate Commission to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). TREC adopted a change to the Consumer Protection Notice (CPN) during its February meeting to remove a reference to home warranty companies being regulated by TREC. The new form CN 1-4 is available for voluntary use but will become mandatory for use on April 1, 2022.
Who is Required to Provide the Consumer Protection Notice?
Real estate brokers, sales agents, inspectors, and easement or right-of-way (ERW) agents must provide the Consumer Protection Notice. Check these three locations where the form is required and make sure you’re using the right version.
Your Business Office
The Consumer Protection Notice must be displayed in a readily noticeable location in each place of business the broker, inspector, or ERW agent maintains.
Your Business Website
The Consumer Protection Notice must be hyperlinked in a readily noticeable location on the homepage of your business website. For real estate brokers, sales agents, and inspectors, the text for the link must be either:
- Texas Real Estate Commission Consumer Protection Notice in at least 10-point font
- TREC Consumer Protection Notice in at least 12-point font.
For ERW agents, the text for the link must say:
- Texas Real Estate Commission Consumer Protection Notice in at least 10-point font.
If your hyperlink goes to the TREC website, you may not need to update your link, since the new version of the notice is at the same URL. If you have uploaded the Consumer Protection Notice as a file hosted on your website, you will have to upload the new version of the form. For example, if the URL that is linked on your homepage has your website’s URL, you probably have a file hosted on your website.
Your Social Media Profiles
If you use social media profiles as part of your real estate business, then it’s possible your profile may qualify as a business website. Under the rule, a "business website" means a website on the internet (including social media) that is accessible to the public, contains information about a license holder’s services, and the content is controlled by the license holder. If your social media profile meets this definition, you must also include a link to the Consumer Protection Notice. However, the rule provides some flexibility for social media platforms and allows the required link to be either
- Within your account holder profile
- A separate page or website through a direct link from the social media platform or account holder profile.
Here are examples of acceptable ways to provide the notice on social media.
Use Your Website’s URL
The easiest way to provide notice is already part of the rules for compliance. Because your business website’s homepage must have the hyperlinked notice, you can use that URL in your Intro section on your business Facebook page or in your bio section on platforms like Twitter and Instagram.
Post an Image of the Consumer Protection Notice
On an Instagram profile, you can post a story with an image of the notice labeled properly. You can then highlight that story on your profile, effectively "pinning" it in a readily noticeable location on your profile.
Use Link-in-Bio Tools Strategically
Some platforms like Instagram do not render clickable hyperlinks in the copy of posts, and only provide the option for one clickable link in your profile’s bio. There are a variety of "link-in-bio" tools to create a static link for the bio that leads to the collection of URLs referenced in your posts. If you use a tool like this, pin a link to the Consumer Protection Notice to the top of your listed links so it is always readily noticeable, even as you add more posts.
Are Your Posts and Links Readily Noticeable?
Do what you can to ensure the Consumer Protection Notice is "readily noticeable" for anyone who might be coming to your office, visiting your website, or checking out your social media pages. If it would take someone a magnifying glass to see the notice, several clicks to find it, or is completely missing from these locations to begin with, you should reassess how you provide the notice and make a few simple updates.