Residential real estate is a client-facing business. What’s more, the client in most residential real estate transactions is typically making one of the most important financial decisions of their life, and one that’s equally informed by emotion as it is by market value.

Amidst this backdrop, it’s sometimes easy for signals to get crossed, communications to break down, and expectations to be blown. And if you’re a residential real estate agent or broker, you already know that when disappointment or regret ultimately sets in, your client will usually blame the person they trusted to guide them through the transaction (you), or their main point of contact and “face” of the other party (the other party’s agent), for the problem.

Sometimes, a client who feels they were truly wronged by something you or the other party’s agent did or didn’t do will go as far as filing a complaint with the Texas Real Estate Commission.

This article addresses what to do when such a complaint is filed against you.

The experienced attorneys at Brousseau Naftis Erick & Massingill, P.C. have represented clients in real estate matters for decades. For more information, contact us today for a no-obligation consultation.

The Texas Real Estate Commission

open house sign near front door

In Texas, a real estate sales agent license is controlled and monitored by the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC).

TREC, as the gatekeeper for all Texas real estate agent licensing, also controls the process for when a complaint is made against a license holder. And, as with all professional licenses, this administrative agency has the power to revoke or suspend any license, which ultimately could have a severe impact on a license holder’s livelihood.

Any person involved in the daily work affairs (whether another agent, broker, or client) can affect your license with one single complaint to TREC. However, if a complaint is filed, there is one important thing to understand for any license holder going through the process: as a professional license holder, you have the legal right to be heard and tell your side of the story.

How a license holder responds to a complaint is crucial and could be the sole reason a complaint is dismissed or pursued. Organization, accuracy, and supporting documentation and evidence are key.

Below are the necessary steps a license holder should take if a complaint is filed against them.

Steps to Take if a Complaint Is Filed:

  1. Check the deadline to submit a response and to ensure you have ample time to respond. There will always be a deadline. In some circumstances, the TREC investigator may agree to an extension of the deadline.
  2. Report the complaint to a supervisor if you have one. A supervisor may be familiar with the complaint process and could help alleviate any concerns.
  3. Determine whether the complaint warrants legal representation. An attorney will communicate with the investigator on the license holder’s behalf and an attorney will understand the process and assist in composing a response that is targeted toward the goal—dismissing the complaint.
  4. Start collecting documentation. This may include e-mails, text messages, internal notes and records, or other documents that will support your position against a complaint or support the factual narrative.
  5. Make a list of potential witnesses and others who can provide information relevant to the complaint.
  6. Draft a timeline of the relevant facts before drafting the response. This will help keep the response organized and accurate.

When to Hire an Attorney for a TREC Complaint

Some complaints may be minor and not warrant legal representation. However, when the possible suspension or revocation of a license is at stake, an attorney is the greatest tool to ensure a license holder’s legal rights are protected. After submission of the response, a TREC investigator will interview the respondent before a TREC attorney reviews the case and decides whether a license holder violated TREC rules and regulations.

If TREC finds that a license holder committed a violation and proposes a suspension or revocation of the license, the license holder will have the opportunity to appeal this decision to the State Office of Administrative Hearings. An attorney with administrative experience will be able to provide the best assistance in this situation as the administrative process is deadline-sensitive and the procedures are detailed-orientated and specific. A missed deadline or misstep in the process could mean a missed opportunity to appeal the license revocation or suspension.

Ultimately, a license holder’s sole goal in this circumstance should be to protect their livelihood. An attorney with experience in this area will be the strongest armor.