Planning Ahead -Your 2010 License Renewal

James L. Goldsmith, Esquire

Believe it or not, now is the time to start thinking about renewing your license in Spring of 2010! The reason for such long-range planning has to do with a change in the way continuing education credits are reported to the Real Estate Commission. The old way, where schools provided the Commission with transcripts evidencing your attendance, is out. The new way, self-reporting, is in.

Self-reporting means that each licensee will be required to answer a question as to whether or not they have completed their 14 hours of education before they have renewed their license. A number of applications, selected at random, will be audited to assure compliance with the continuing education requirements. Inadvertent or minor errors on the application will be treated reasonably and without life-altering consequences. Intentionally falsifying an application by reporting credits not earned will be met with more drastic treatment!

As you start a new continuing education cycle, consider what your reporting obligations will be two years from now. Salespersons and associate brokers should keep detailed records of courses attended and should maintain registration/attendance materials provided by the school. While the schools will maintain attendance records, their accuracy is out of your control. Besides, you won't be able to rely on the school providing you with backup information if you can't remember when and where you attended a course!

Brokers, you face the possibility of having to prove that you adequately supervised your licensees by ensuring that they complied with their continuing education requirements. Remember, the Commonwealth's Bureau of Professional Occupational Affairs can, and does, prosecute brokers for failing to exercise "adequate supervision" over the affiliated licensees. Should a salesperson erroneously or fraudulently claim credits not truly earned, what will be your liability? Now is the time for you to establish how you will stay on top of your affiliates when it comes to verifying their continuing education achievements. Will you require your affiliates to provide documentary evidence of their having completed courses? Will you provide a form on which detailed information regarding the credits earned will be reported? Will you have your affiliates verify in writing that the information they provide is true?

A broker is not necessarily culpable of lax supervision simply because the licensee erred in reporting accurate education credits to the Real Estate Commission. What efforts the broker invested in endeavoring to determine that the affiliate knew their responsibility and satisfied it, will determine whether prosecution is warranted. Now is the time to consider policies, establishing written policies and give copies of the policies to your affiliates. Have them sign a receipt of the policies so they can't later claim ignorance of the policies.

The few months following the renewal process is a busy time at my law office. You'd be surprised by the number of panic-stricken brokers and salespersons who find that they are practicing without their reissued licenses. Most of these matters can be resolved quickly and with little fuss or expense. On the other hand, more than a few REALTORS® learn the hard way that not paying attention to details can be painful.

Wishing you all a fret-free renewal in 2010 . . . adieu!