So, you have a problem with a licensed real estate sales agent or maybe you’re aware of conduct of a real estate broker that you believe is improper.
Standards & Enforcement Services (or “SES”) is the TREC division that handles enforcement of the Commission’s laws and Rules through complaint investigation and disciplinary action, and we're here to help.
What should you do?
If you have information that a licensed real estate agent or broker has possibly violated the Real Estate License Act or the Rules of the Texas Real Estate Commission, you can file a complaint with TREC.
How do you file a complaint?
We have a detailed page dedicated to how to file a complaint on our website. As well as a wide range of FAQs related to complaints. (Search by the category "How Are Disputes Handled?" or do a word search with "complaint").
There are some requirements for complaints – these are mandated by the Texas Legislature:
- Complaints can’t be anonymous.
- Anyone filing a complaint must provide a name and contact information.
- You are not required to use the TREC complaint form, but complaints must be in writing. It is helpful, however, to use the form because it prompts you for all the necessary, as well as helpful, information.
- A complaint can’t be submitted over the phone.
- A complaint must be signed.
So what happens after a complaint is filed?
When a complaint is received it is assigned a case number and reviewed to determine whether the Commission has jurisdiction over the issue raised in the complaint. For example, personal issues or contractual disputes with a license holder generally aren’t matters that the Commission can address. You should hear back from the Commission about whether we are moving forward with your complaint within 30 days. If SES staff determines that the Commission has the authority to address the issue in the complaint, the case is investigated. Each license holder who is the subject of a jurisdictional complaint is given a copy of the complaint and an opportunity to respond to the allegations made in the complaint.
If an investigator is assigned to the complaint, the investigator may determine that additional information is needed and conduct phone interviews of witnesses, which normally takes three-to-six months. An interview may also be in person, but this is less common. For some investigations, an investigator is not assigned and the information is gathered by questions submitted by letter and written responses received.
Once the investigation is complete, the case is assigned to an SES staff attorney. The SES staff attorney reviews the complaint and investigation to determine if the evidence in the case supports that a violation of TREC laws or Rules occurred. Because SES deals with a high volume of complaints, this stage of the process can also take several months.
What are the possible outcomes after the case is assigned to an attorney?
The attorney could find that there has been no violation, or the attorney could find that there is insufficient evidence to prove that a violation occurred. In these cases, the attorney will issue a letter closing the complaint.
The attorney could find that the license holder should be warned about their actions. If so, the attorney will issue what we call an advisory letter. This letter becomes part of the license holder’s record and will be considered if further complaints are filed.
The attorney could determine that a violation has occurred and recommend that the license holder receive formal discipline. Formal discipline includes monetary fines, license suspension, or license revocation.
- If the license holder accepts the recommended discipline, the complaint may be closed by agreement. If not, a Petition and Notice of Alleged Violation will be prepared and served on the license holder.
- If the license holder does not accept the recommended discipline and requests a hearing, then the case is scheduled for a hearing at the State Office of Administrative Hearings. During a hearing, the SES attorney presents the Commission’s case for formal discipline and the license holder presents their defense. At SOAH, the license holder can represent themselves or hire an attorney. After the hearing is finished, the judge has 60 days to issue a Proposal for Decision. The Commission then considers the case during an open meeting and issues a Final Order.
If you would like a more detailed breakdown of the complaint processx, download the Complaint Overview manual.
Please understand that the Commission does not have authority to order a license holder to pay damages to another person.
Any claim for damages would need to be addressed in another forum and should be discussed with a private attorney. The Commission does maintain a recovery trust account to pay certain judgments obtained in court.