Unlicensed Assistants – Drawing the Line Between What They Can and Cannot Do

There is a line between licensed and unlicensed in the world of real estate brokerage that requires the careful attention of brokers with unlicensed assistants who help them with their business and may work directly with buyers and sellers.

A complaint from a buyer or seller that the “broker” with whom they are working is not licensed as a broker is often followed by the actual broker explaining that the “broker” is really an unlicensed assistant.

The question then arises: Did the assistant cross the line between licensed and unlicensed when providing services requested by the client or the broker?

Because clients do not always know who is licensed in a brokerage office or precisely what rights a license confers, brokers should inform clients of the limits placed on their unlicensed assistants in providing services. Otherwise, there is considerable opportunity for confusion.

The best course of action is to explain matters to the client at the beginning of the relationship and, as an aid in doing that, provide the two lists below which draw that important line between what is allowable and what is not.

Unlicensed assistants MAY:

Receive and forward phone calls, texts and emails to the employing broker or other licensees in a firm;

Submit listings and changes to a MLS provider, but only if the listing or change is based upon data supplied by a broker;

Assist a broker in compiling documents for closing;

Research and obtain copies of documents in the public domain, such as the Registers of Deeds, Clerks of Court, or tax offices;

Obtain keys for listed properties;

Record and deposit trust monies under the close supervision of the office broker-in-charge (BIC);

Type in offer to purchase, contract and lease forms with information provided by brokers;

Check license renewal records and other personnel information pertaining to brokers at the direction of the BIC;

Prepare commission checks and otherwise act as bookkeeper for the firm’s operating account under the close supervision of the BIC;

Place “For Sale” or “For Rent” signs on property at the direction of a broker;

Order and supervise routine and minor repairs at the direction of a broker;

Act as a courier at the direction of a broker;

Coordinate or confirm appointments between brokers and other persons;

Schedule appointments for showing properties listed for sale or rent;

Show rental properties managed by the broker to prospective tenants;

Complete and execute preprinted form leases for rental property managed by the firm.

Answer basic questions from prospective buyers and others about listed properties if the broker has provided the information in promotional materials.

Only licensed brokers MAY:

Show properties for sale to prospective buyers;

Answer questions from prospective buyers and others about listed properties.

Offer opinions as to the seller’s or landlord’s intentions about a listed property;

Solicit listings or management contracts from prospective clients;

Prepare information to be placed in promotional material or advertisements for properties for sale or lease;

Discuss or explain listings, management agreements, offers, agency agreements, leases or other similar matters with persons outside the firm;

Negotiate the amount of rent, earnest money deposits, due diligence fees or other contract provisions in connection with properties listed for sale or rent by the firm.

Finally, remember that if you are a broker-in-charge, you are responsible for all money being held in a trust account and the accuracy of all advertising. Brokers-in-charge should be closely supervising all actions in those areas, especially when those duties are performed by unlicensed persons.

This article came from the October 2012-Vol43-2 edition of the bulletin.