How to File a Complaint
If you feel there has been a violation of The Real Estate License Act or TREC rules you have the right to file a complaint with TREC. This is who TREC regulates, or the types of professionals you can file a complaint against to TREC.
- Real Estate Sales Agents and Brokers
- Real Estate Inspectors
- Easement and Right-of-Way Agents
- TREC-Approved Education Providers
- Timeshare Plans
- Individuals who engage in any of the above activity without a license
The Commission has jurisdiction to open a complaint that alleges a license holder discriminated against an owner, potential buyer, landlord, or potential tenant on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, national origin, or ancestry.
Anyone can file a complaint against a license holder, even other license holders.
Filing a complaint is how TREC can enforce rules and laws and ensure license holders correct errors or face appropriate disciplinary action.
The Texas Legislature requires a certain process for filling complaints. Here's what you need to know to successfully file your complaint with TREC.
Make Sure The Timing is Right
TREC cannot investigate an incident that occurred four or more years ago.
Complaints Must Be in Writing
To initiate the complaint process, you must submit a written complaint and you cannot file one by phone. You are not required to use TREC's Complaint Form, but it makes it easier to file your complaint since it explains the information that you will need to provide. Make sure you fill out the entire form. It's OK if you need to add extra sheets if you run out of room on the form.
Sign Your Complaint
Anyone filing a complaint must provide a name and contact information. TREC cannot accept an anonymous or unsigned complaint, so make sure you sign your form before you submit it.
Provide Supporting Documents
Make copies of any documents related to the complaint, such as emails or texts, contracts, reports, MLS printouts, and closing statements. Do not submit the original documents.
For example, if your complaint is about an inspection report, attach a copy of the report or state why it is not available. Or, if your complaint is regarding a promise made by your buyer’s agent, attach a copy of your buyer representation agreement, if the promise was made in writing, and the sales contract and the TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) statement. If the promise was made at closing in front of the title company closing agent, you could include this person's name and contact information and describe what this witness may know.
Submit Your Complaint Form and Documents
Once you have finished filling out your complaint form and made clear copies of supporting documentation, you can send your materials to TREC by email. TREC also accepts complaints by mail or fax:
TREC Enforcement Division
P.O. Box 12188
Austin, TX 78711-2188
TREC Enforcement staff has modified the complaint form to add a checkbox for advertising complaints. This will allow staff to quickly identify complaints that may be eligible for processing through the Advertising Compliance Program. The goal of the new program is to promote compliance, not punishment.
How it Works
Step 1: TREC Assesses the Complaint
- If there are allegations beyond advertising, the complaint will go through the normal complaint investigation process.
- If the allegations are only about advertising violations, the complaint will be handled at TREC headquarters versus being assigned to a field investigator.
Step 2: Alert the Respondent
The license holder and sponsoring broker, if applicable, will be notified in writing of the issue and given 14 days to correct it. The license holder must also provide documentation to staff that the advertising violations have been corrected.
Step 3: Monitor the 14-Day Timeline
- If license holders correct within 14 days, the case will be dismissed as a matter settled and no formal disciplinary action would be held.
- If license holders fail to comply with the 14-day deadline, they would have their complaint reviewed again by a staff attorney for further action, which could include an advisory letter or formal discipline. Staff may grant additional time for compliance.
When TREC receives your complaint, 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.
The Commission does not have the 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 Real Estate Recovery Trust Account to pay for certain judgments obtained in court against sale agents or brokers.
You should hear back from the Commission about whether we are moving forward with your complaint within 30 days. If Enforcement staff determines that the Commission has the authority to address the issue in the complaint, the case is investigated. If an investigation is opened, each person against whom the complaint is filed will receive a copy of the complaint. After the investigation is concluded, the information obtained will be reviewed to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to take disciplinary action for a violation of the applicable statute or Commission’s rules. Disciplinary action could include a formal reprimand, the suspension or revocation of a license, payment of an administrative penalty, or other appropriate action. Investigations and the disciplinary process differ in complexity and duration, so providing a time of completion is not possible.
TREC does not regulate everyone who may be involved in your real estate transaction and cannot handle complaints for:
- Real Estate Developers (not regulated)
- Home Builders (not regulated)
- Residential Service Companies/Home Warranty Companies (See Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation)
- Appraisers (See the Texas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board)
- Mortgage Brokers and Loan Officers (See the Texas Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending)
- Property Tax Consultants (See the Property Tax Consultant Board of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation)
- Title Insurance Companies (See the Texas Department of Insurance)
- Auctioneers (See Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation)
- Manufactured Housing (See the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs)
- Plumbers (See the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners)
- Wood Destroying Insect Inspectors (See the Texas Department of Agriculture)
The Commission does not have the jurisdiction to take action against a license holder for rude, unprofessional, disparaging, or offensive comments on social media unless the comment or action involves discrimination in a real estate transaction.
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 Enforcement staff attorney. The Enforcement 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 Enforcement deals with a high volume of complaints, this stage of the process can also take several months.
What Are the Possible Outcomes if the Case is Assigned to a Staff Attorney?
- The attorney may 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 issues a letter closing the complaint.
- The attorney may 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 may 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 is 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 Enforcement staff 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 typically has 60 days to issue a Proposal for Decision. The Commission then considers the case during an open meeting and issues a Final Order.