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President’s Corner Communication is critical in avoiding conflicts

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Kerry Suess

Posted: Friday, July 1, 2011 12:00 am

Realtor members of the California Association of Realtors work hard to uphold our image as being fair and ethical in all of our dealings. CAR and the Lodi Association of Realtors work hand in hand with the State Department of Real Estate to monitor and discipline when necessary. Sometimes there are misunderstandings or difficulties and we want you to know where to turn if you have issues or questions. The California Department of Real Estate, Summer 2011 Real Estate Bulletin has provided the information below.

The DRE has initiated the Enforcement Advocacy Program which attempts to resolve simple disputes or minor issues between consumers and licensees as a potential alternative to setting up formal investigations into such matters. The program includes advocates from the Enforcement, Subdivisions, and Mortgage Loan Activities sections. The mission of the Advocacy Program is to respond quickly and informally to concerns of consumers and members of the real estate industry by serving as an informal mediator or facilitator to resolve conflicts and/or to mitigate or prevent Real Estate Law violations. Over the last seven months, the program has proven effective in resolving disputes, and in reducing workloads by addressing issues up front as opposed to at the conclusion of a lengthy investigative process.

Many of the issues that advocates work to resolve involve a breakdown in communication between licensees and their principals. It is important to note that, in many of these instances, advocates endeavor to reestablish and facilitate communication, thus solving the issue. The types of cases that have been handled through the Advocacy Program have included small monetary disputes where there did not appear to be a violation of the Real Estate Law. Examples of issues that have been handled through the Advocacy Program are as follows:

Consumers who needed copies of their documents and had been unable to secure a response or needed assistance in contacting their agent or broker on a current transaction. Consumers who needed information that they had not been able to obtain from their agent for escrow, lenders, or inspectors. Consumers questioning commission demands by agents (inside and outside of escrow). Consumers trying to cancel transactions or loans. Consumers who wanted to know where their earnest money deposit was. Consumers who were asked to sign documents or do something they did not understand or did not feel is appropriate. Tenants who were being evicted following foreclosure without being provided the appropriate 90-day notice period.  Short sale transaction disputes where one of the agents involved were demanding terms or provisions that were questionable or potentially unlawful. While the DRE cannot interfere with an ongoing transaction, we can place a call to the licensee to discuss possible consequences of proceeding.  Consumers requesting return of illegally-collected advance fee payments.

The telephone numbers for the Advocacy Program are as follows: Enforcement: Fresno: (559) 445-5009, Los Angeles: (213) 620-6858, Oakland: (510) 622-2525, Sacramento: (916) 227-0864, San Diego: (619) 525-4190, Mortgage Loan Activities Unit: (916) 227-0942, Subdivisions Northern Region (916) 227-0813, Subdivisions Southern Region (213) 576-6938. It is important to note that the DRE may not have the remedies and ability to compel cooperation. All the same, we have experienced a great amount of cooperation from licensees when working to resolve simple disputes. If the Advocacy Program can be of service to you, please do not hesitate to contact an advocacy deputy in the district office nearest to you.

The DRE is excited to announce that there are several newly-revised publications as well as many Consumer Alerts on our Web site, Revised Publications include Sources of Home Loans provides information on how to find a lender and lists the right questions for consumers to ask when applying for a home loan. It also contains valuable information about different housing assistance programs offered by all levels of government, including special programs that consumers may not know about. A Consumer Guide to Filing Real Estate Complaints gives an overview of the DRE complaint process, Enforcement contact information, and clarifies what the Department has jurisdiction over versus when a consumer would need to contact an attorney. A Consumer Guide to Mortgage-Related Complaints is a detailed booklet in Q&A format that provides basic information about loan servicers, lenders, mortgage brokers, and lists contact information for all government agencies that regulate these loan providers.

Consumer Alerts. Over the past several years, DRE has been taking a proactive approach to fighting real estate fraud by issuing consumer alerts when a new scam becomes prevalent, thereby trying to prevent problems before they occur. All of the below Consumer Alerts are available online in English, Spanish, and Chinese. Of current interest are: Fraud Warning Regarding Lawsuit Marketers Requesting Upfront Fees for so-called “Mass Joinder” or Class Litigation Promising Extraordinary Home Mortgage Relief (March 2011). Consumer Alert: What You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Getting Ripped Off in Real Estate and Home Loan Relief Scams (February 2011). New Federal Rule Outlaws Advance Fees and False Claims, and Requires Clear Disclosures, Regarding Mortgage Assistance Relief (including Loan Modification, Short Sale, and Deed-in-Lieu of Foreclosure) Services (February 2011). Consumer Alert - Beware of Imposter Landlords (November 2010). Consumer and Industry Warning: False and Misleading Designations and Claims of Special Expertise, Certifications and/or Credentials (October 2010). “Cash for Keys” – Information for Consumers and DRE Licensees (September 2010)

Questions or comments can be made to Kerry Suess at