Commission Spotlight: Consumer Protection Officers (CPOs)

Have you heard of the Commission’s “brown envelope?” 

When the Commission receives a complaint against a broker, a staff attorney reviews the complaint to determine whether the allegations fall under the jurisdiction of the Real Estate Commission.  The staff attorney is not attempting to determine whether the allegations are true or false at this stage.  Rather, the attorney must consider: “If all allegations in this complaint are true as written, would there be a violation of License law and Commission rules?”  If the answer is yes, then a case file is opened.

If most of the necessary information can be gathered by mail or email, then the case is referred to a Consumer Protection Officer, or CPO, who writes to the responding broker and any witnesses to obtain statements and documents. Typically, the first piece of correspondence from the CPO related to an investigation will be mailed in a brown envelope.

A copy of the complaint and any documents the Commission received is included with the initial letter of inquiry. Pursuant to Rule 58A .0601(e), any broker who receives a letter of inquiry shall submit a written response within 14 days of receipt. If additional time is needed to prepare a thorough response, the broker should contact the CPO who wrote the letter of inquiry and request an extension of time to respond, which typically is granted.

In addition to investigating complaints against licensees, CPOs:

  • investigate complaints against unlicensed persons conducting real estate brokerage activity;
  • interview witnesses;
  • analyze supporting documentation received during an investigation;
  • testify as witnesses during disciplinary hearings; and
  • deliver presentations on License law and Commission rules to brokers and the public.

To learn more about the complaint process or to file a complaint, go to the Commission’s website, or contact Regulatory Affairs at or 919-719-9180.