Few buyers and sellers of residential real estate believe everything in advertisements placed by brokers and agents.
Neither does New York’s Department of State (DOS), which is proposing to implement new rules as a consumer protection to replace its informal advertising guidelines. In a notice about the change published on Oct. 24, it said:
After consulting with the New York State Board of Real Estate, however, it was determined that enforceable regulations were required in order to adequate protect the public from dishonest and misleading advertising practices.
Covered by the rule is all advertising related to licensed real estate activity, including mail, telephone, Web site, e-mail and business cards, among other vehicles used more commonly outside the Big Apple.
Following are some of the other provisions:
- Only a broker — not associate broker or salesperson — may authorize advertising;
- The owner of the property must first authorize the ad;
- Brokers may not advertise property that someone else has listed exclusively without that person’s written permission (as in illegally posted open listings);
- Photograph’s on a broker’s Web site may not be used without the copyright holder’s say-so;
- Ads must indicate that the advertiser is a real estate broker or agent and provide either an address or phone number;
- Specific type of license must be provided, except for classified ads, thus prohibiting “sales associate,” “licensed sales associate” or simply “broker” elsewhere;
- Using a personal logo is fine, but the brokerage firm’s logo also must appear;
- Description of the property to be sold or leased must be “honest and accurate;”
- Advertisements must not guarantee future profits from any real estate activity;
- Individual Web sites are permissible only with the authorization of the supervising real estate broker and must be linked to the broker’s site;
- Any initial e-mail to a client or potential client must include required information;
- If a property is not listed with the advertiser, there must be a disclaimer saying, “This advertisement does not suggest that the broker has a listing or has done a transaction in this property or properties.”
Comments should go to the Office of Counsel within 45 days of the proposal’s publication. By e-mail, the address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The rule becomes effective 90 days after it is adopted.
Although the proposed measure refers to enforcement of its provisions, I find nothing in the notice outlining exactly what that means — for example, any penalities for violations. (I called the Department of State late Friday in the hope of finding out and assume Sandy has interfered with a response.)
I’ve gone on at some length because the regulation is intended as a consumer protection.
If you are buyer or seller who sees an ad on the Web, drowns in a flood of direct mail boasts or pleas for business, is handed a business card with little information or picks up material at an open house, then you are the one who needs to know the basic requirements.
Most of us brokers try to conform to the letter of the law. That minority who doesn’t may simply be out to lunch or be among our unsavory bad apples in the Big Apple.
You have been warned.
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Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022