The filing of a complaint against a real estate license holder is not uncommon. In fiscal year 2019, the Texas Real Estate Commissions’ Standards & Enforcement Services Division (SES) reviewed 1,615 complaints filed by consumers against real estate brokers and sales agents and Commission investigators completed 467 field investigations.
The goal of an investigation is to protect consumers and to uphold the integrity of the real estate profession by gathering the facts necessary to resolve the complaint.
The TREC Investigator is a Fact-Finder
To achieve this goal, a TREC Investigator gathers information and interviews complainants, license holders, and relevant witnesses. The investigator is a neutral fact-finder – he or she doesn’t make recommendations regarding the outcome of the case.
The investigator’s investigative report is submitted to an SES staff attorney for review. Case determinations are made by the staff attorney and are based on the presence of evidence (or not) of a violation of the Real Estate License Act or Texas Real Estate Commission Rules.
Keep Good Records – The Rules Require It and It Helps the Investigation
Many complaints arise from miscommunication. Consequently, keeping emails and other documents is important to show that a real estate broker or sales agent acted appropriately given the circumstances of the transaction. The license holder’s narrative of the events in any given transaction should be supported by documents.
This means that the broker should maintain complete records of each real estate transaction. This is not only a good practice in terms of responding to complaints but is required under the Rules of the Real Estate Commission [Rule 535.2(h)]. Effectively responding to a TREC investigation always involves the submission of relevant supporting documents.
Tip: Provide the investigator with a written chronology or timeline of events in the real estate transaction. This allows TREC to understand the sequence of events from the license holder’s perspective.
Provide Responses Timely and Cooperate
A license holder must respond to a complaint by providing documents and information related to a real estate transaction or complaint in a timely manner, typically 14 days. The license holder should also provide an interview to discuss the transaction in detail. Failure to respond to an investigator’s written request for documents or information will result in disciplinary action. Discipline may include an administrative penalty and other actions such as a suspension or revocation of license. The most effective way to avoid this outcome is to respond, provide any documents or other information requested, and cooperate with the investigator.