By Miriam J. Baer, Assistant Director, Legal Services
Do you advertise that you speak Spanish? If so, be certain that your Spanish skills are up to par. The Commission has recently received complaints that agents are advertising that they speak Spanish, when in fact their skills are inadequate to handle a real estate transaction.
With the rising Spanish-speaking population in North Carolina, it may be good marketing to advertise that you speak Spanish or that your firm has the resources to handle a transaction requiring Spanish (or any other foreign language). Just be sure that any representation you make is accurate.
For example, if you advertise that you speak Spanish, you should not have to rely on a translator to assist you. If you advertise that Spanish is spoken at your office, then you or your office should have a Spanish-speaking person available to take a call in Spanish or meet with a Spanish-speaker who arrives at your office.
Perhaps neither you nor any other member of your firm speaks a foreign language, but you are willing to employ a translator when the need arises. In that case, don’t advertise that you speak Spanish (or French or Norwegian). Instead, advertise your readiness to hire a translator to assist in any transaction.
The Commission recently received a complaint about a listing agent whose rider announced, “se habla Espanol” (“Spanish spoken”). The complainant left a voice mail message for the listing agent in Spanish, and didn’t receive a call back for several days. When he finally got the call, the person on the phone represented herself to be the listing agent. According to the complainant, this was not true. In fact, she was a translator, but she was holding herself out to be the agent.
This practice is deceptive. If you are using a translator, be sure to explain to the parties that they are speaking to a translator. This is particularly important if you are doing so by phone or other electronic means where the person to whom you are speaking cannot see you and the translator.
Never let a translator take over a transaction or imply in any way that he or she is licensed. Rather, have the translator do what he or she is trained to do: translate your words, as you are speaking, into the foreign language. This will avoid any misunderstanding about your respective roles in the transaction. It will also help assure that the translator does not engage in the unlicensed practice of real estate.
This article came from the October 2002-Vol33-2 edition of the bulletin.