A few weeks ago we discussed the fact that Directors of the California Association of Realtors® (CAR) voted to adopt the recommendations submitted by its Ethics and Professionalism Task Force. One of those recommendations was that CAR publish on its web site a monthly summary of disciplinary actions by the California Department of Real Estate (DRE, and, as of July 1, the Bureau of Real Estate). That recommendation has now been implemented.
In doing this, CAR is not making information available that couldn’t otherwise be obtained. The DRE has published its monthly disciplinary lists for some time. Indeed, back in the days of print publications, when the DRE monthly newsletter arrived, the first pages to which most recipients (i.e. all active licensees) turned was the list of disciplines that had been meted out that month. It’s always fun to see your friends’ names in the paper.
It has been some time, though, since the DRE has mailed out a printed newsletter. Now, all of that - and the discipline list - are maintained on the department’s web site (dre.ca.gov/Licensees/EnforcementActions.html). While, on the one hand, that makes DRE information more easily accessible to a wider public - anyone can utilize the site - on the other hand, the information is no longer "pushed". You have to go get it.
Hence, the monthly discipline lists are less of a common topic than they used to be. I suspect that most agents who have been in the business for less than five years, maybe even ten, are not even aware that the DRE publishes a monthly discipline list.
CAR is not publishing this information for the purpose of feeding gossip mills. The rationale was rather that "real estate professionals can more easily see what is likely to threaten their license and improve behavior."
The manner in which CAR has made the discipline information available is more likely to accomplish that end than is the information as provided by the DRE. The DRE site shows, for each case, what specific laws or regulations were violated. It does not, however, provide a story. It doesn’t explain the facts of the incident(s). To be sure, the DRE site does provide the numbers of the specific case hearing documents, but it is no easy task to get to those documents. There is no link. Moreover, the documents themselves, which are largely devoted to procedural issues, have a less than enviable prose style.
On the CAR site, however, serious efforts have been made to make the otherwise "bare bones" information relevant and educational. To that end it is most impressive that CAR has invested significant staff time and expertise into providing summaries of the cases. While the CAR site does include links to the official documents, it is the summaries that, so to speak, breathe life into these cases. In easily readable form, they let an inquirer know what was going on.
Additionally, the CAR site also provides an analysis of the month’s disciplinary activity. In the May analysis it points out that there were 115 total actions. (Does that seem like a lot? Or does it seem like a small number? Currently, there are approximately 415,000 real estate licensees in California.) It then lists how many of various types of action occurred. For example, there were 30 outright revocations of licenses, and 16 with the ability to apply for a restricted license. Twelve Desist and Refrain orders were issued to licensed entities, and fifteen to those unlicensed.
The analysis show the kinds of violations for which discipline was imposed more than ten times. It notes, "Other than crimes, most of the revocations, summary suspensions, and voluntary surrenders in May were due to issues with advance fees, loan modifications, trust accounts, and the proper accounting of each." Many disciplinary actions were taken as a result of convictions for crimes not committed in a real estate context (e.g. hit and run, possession of marijuana for sale, inflicting corporal injury on a spouse, stalking, child molestation, and drunk driving).
Curiously, if you subtract out the disciplines that were imposed either for conviction of crimes not related to real estate or for trust fund violations, there’s not much left over that relates to listing, selling, or soliciting real estate business. That is, there’s not much here that might provide cautionary material for a typical agent.
CAR has done a wonderful job of implementing this particular recommendation of the Ethics and Professionalism Task Force. Members can find the material by Clicking Here. Time will tell whether it has the desired effect.