Monday, August 12, 2013

The Real Deal Prematurely Pronounces the Death of the Term "Licensed Real Estate Broker"

In an August 6, 2013 article, The Real Deal conclusively proclaimed that real estate brokers, associate brokers, and salespersons no longer have to place the term "licensed" in front of their license type.  Quoting Alfred Fazio of Capuder, Fazio, Giacoia, LLP, the article reasoned that "[i]t seemed particularly redundant to require agents to use 'licensed' before real estate salesperson, real estate associate broker, or real estate broker.  In a similar example, it would be as if requiring attorneys to advertise themselves as 'licensed.'"

Not so fast my friend.  While The Real Deal's advice is sound for a large percentage of situations where a salesperson or broker would describe their license type, brokers can't do away with the requirement altogether.  A Department of State Opinion Letter can interpret statutes or regulations, and the Department of State can issue and alter regulations; however, an Opinion Letter cannot override the express language of a statute instituted by the legislature.

RPL § 441-a(3) requires real estate brokers to "conspicuously post on the outside of the building in which [their place of business] is conducted a sign of sufficient size to be readable from the sidewalk indicating the name and the business of the applicant as a licensed real estate broker, unless said office shall be located in an office, apartment or hotel building, in which event the name and words 'licensed real estate broker' shall be posted in the space provided for posting of names and occupants of the building, other than the mail box."

Where does that leave us?  The Opinion Letter relieves brokers, associate brokers, and salespersons from the duty of including the term "licensed" in their advertising and other descriptions of their license type, but it cannot eliminate the explicit requirements of RPL § 441-a(3).  Real estate brokers, associate brokers, and salespersons can rejoice in the news that their business cards and for-sale signs can be one word shorter, but the industry can't throw away with the term "licensed" completely.  If you're a broker, you still need to have the full title "Licensed Real Estate Broker" displayed on the outside of your place of business.