FREC authority

Violations and penalties

Penalties issued by court of law

FREC authority           

The Commission has the authority to set guidelines for penalties to be imposed on a licensee who violates Florida’s real estate laws, specifically Chapter 455 and Chapter 475, as well as the FREC Administrative Code. Because the Commission’s jurisdiction is limited to the practice of real estate in Florida, it may only impose administrative penalties related to that practice. Criminal and civil penalties must come from the courts. Restitution to an injured party is a civil matter and, therefore, cannot be granted by the FREC.

The FREC is authorized to carry out the following actions:

  • deny a license application

    Grounds for application or licensure denial include errors on the application, failure to meet the application or licensure qualifications, failure to pay applicable fees, lack of required character, acts that would warrant suspension or revocation of a license, caught cheating on the licensure examination.
  • refuse to renew a license

    Grounds for refusing to renew an existing license are much the same as those for denying the license application

  • reprimand

    Similar to a notice of noncompliance, a letter of reprimand may be issued to a licensee who has violated real estate law or code.

  • issue notice of noncompliance

    As established by the Commission, violations of certain statutes and rules are considered minor violations

    These laws are those that do not result in economic or physical harm or negatively affect the health, safety, or welfare of the public or create a threat of harm.

    First-time violators of these laws can receive a notice of noncompliance that identifies the law violated and contains instructions on how and by when to correct the violation. Failure to correct the violation can result in the licensee receiving a citation or being further disciplined.

    Administrative Code 61J2-24.003 contains the list of these statutes and rules and can be found online at

    http://www.myfloridalicense.com/DBPR/servop/testing/documents/Printable_LawBook.pdf

  • impose an administrative fine

    Fines range from $100 to $5,000 per violation for certain violations.

  • impose probation

    In addition to other disciplinary penalties, the Commission may place a licensee on probation. The Commission will designate the time period and conditions it deems appropriate.

    Standard probationary conditions may include requiring the licensee to complete a prelicense or postlicense course, to successfully complete the state-administered examination, and/or to be periodically interviewed by a DBPR investigator.

    Brokers on probation may have their licenses placed on a broker associate status or be required to file escrow account status reports with the Commission or with a DBPR investigator at prescribed intervals.

  • issue citations

    Citations are issued for specific violations that do not pose a substantial threat to the public health, safety, and welfare.

    The licensee may accept the citation as is or dispute it through the investigation and hearing procedure provided by law. (See examples of violations that warrant citations below.)

  • suspend a license

    Based on disciplinary guidelines and associated penalties, a license may be suspended for law and code violations for up to 10 years.

  • revoke a license

    Based on disciplinary guidelines and associated penalties, this penalty is intended to permanently remove the violator from the practice of real estate; however, further language in the law states that the FREC may approve an application from a previously revoked licensee if “because of lapse of time and subsequent good conduct and reputation, or other reason deemed sufficient, it appears to the commission that the interest of the public and investors will not likely be endangered.”

    Regardless of this language in the law, the FREC maintains its policy not to license previously revoked licensees.

  • revoke without prejudice

    If the license was issued by mistake or inadvertence of the Commission, it can be revoked or canceled without prejudicing a later application by the same individual.

  • mediation

    Violations that are economic in nature and involve disputes are subject to being referred to mediation for resolution.

    Such violations include: a broker’s failure to maintain an office or entrance sign, failure to register a branch office, and failure to pay a licensee the amount of commission designated in a civil judgment.

Violations and penalties                      

Florida Administrative Code contains an exhaustive list of actions that constitute real estate law violations and the penalties for first and subsequent violations. The list may be found online at

http://www.myfloridalicense.com/DBPR/servop/testing/documents/Printable_LawBook.pdf

The following are examples of violations and associated penalties from that list.

ViolationFirst ViolationSubsequent Violations
Fraud, misrepresentation, and dishonest dealingadministrative fine and 30-day suspension to revocationadministrative fine and 6-month suspension to revocation
False, deceptive or misleading advertisingadministrative fine and 30 to 90-day suspensionadministrative fine and 90-day suspension to revocation
Culpable negligence or breach of trustadministrative fine and 30-day suspension to revocationadministrative fine and 6-month suspension to revocation
Failure, as a broker, to deposit any money in an escrow account immediately upon receipt until disbursement is properly authorized;. as a sales associate, to place any money to be escrowed with his registered employeradministrative fine and 30-day suspension to revocationadministrative fine and suspension to revocation
Failure to report in writing to the Commission within 30 days after the licensee is convicted or found guilty of, or entered a plea of nolo contendere or guilty to, regardless of adjudication, a crime in any jurisdiction.administrative fine and suspension to revocationadministrative fine and suspension to revocation
Collection, by a sales associate, of any money in connection with any real estate brokerage transaction except in the name of the employeradministrative fine and suspension to revocationadministrative fine and suspension to revocation
Rendering an opinion that the title to property sold is good or merchantable when not based on opinion of a licensed attorneyadministrative fine and 30-day suspension to revocationadministrative fine and suspension to revocation

These penalties are typically imposed during an informal or formal hearing. The order of penalties for violations, ranging from lowest to highest, is reprimand, fine, probation, suspension, and revocation or denial. Any of these penalties may be combined.

The penalties are as listed unless aggravating or mitigating circumstances can be demonstrated during a hearing, in which case, the Commission may deviate from the penalty guidelines listed in the Administrative Code.

Additional violations and grounds for discipline are contained in Chapter 455.227 found online at http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2019/Chapter455/All.

The following are examples of violations that may result in the issuance of a citation. The entire list is found in 61J2-24.002 F.A.C. online at http://www.myfloridalicense.com/DBPR/servop/testing/documents/Printable_LawBook.pdf.

Section 475.25(1)(q), F.S.failed to give the appropriate disclosure or notice at the appropriate time under the provisions of Section 475.2755 or 475.278, F.S. (A citation may only be given for a first-time violation.)
Section 475.25(1)(r), F.S.failed to include the required information in a listing agreement; failed to give a copy to a principal within 24 hours; contains a self-renewal clause
Section 475.4511(2), F.S.advertised false, inaccurate, misleading, or exaggerated information
Rule 61J2-10.025, F.A.C.advertised in a manner in which a reasonable person would not know one is dealing with a real estate licensee or brokerage; failed to include the registered name of the brokerage firm in the advertisement; failed to use the licensee’s last name as registered with the Commission in an advertisement
Rule 61J2-10.038, F.A.Cfailed to timely notify the DBPR of the current mailing address or any change in the current mailing address
Subsection 61J2-14.012(2), F.A.C.failed to properly reconcile an escrow account when the account balances

Penalties issued by court of law                 

Civil penalties. Civil penalties are monetary punishment for violating a statute or administrative code and are imposed as restitution for wrongdoing. The penalty can be a fine, surcharge, or compensation imposed to enforce regulations and/or recover funds owed. Civil penalties are not the result of a private suit between two private parties. Those suits result in civil damages, not penalties. Civil penalties are imposed by the courts for such violations as writing bad checks, practicing real estate without a license, filing a false complaint against a licensee, failure to pay an imposed fine, etc.

Criminal penalties. Criminal penalties are a result of violations of local, state, or federal laws that prohibit certain conduct. The penalty may be a fine, an arrest, or jail/prison time. These penalties are imposed by criminal courts. Neither the FREC nor the DBPR has the authority to impose criminal penalties. However, the DBPR is required to refer criminal matters to the Florida Attorney General’s office. Criminal offenses fall into separate classes:

  • misdemeanor of the first degree results in a penalty of a fine up to $1,000 and/or up to 1 year in jail; offenses such as failing to provide accurate and current rental information for a fee are misdemeanors of the first degree
  • misdemeanor of the second degree results in a penalty of a fine up to $500 and/or up to 60 days in jail; offenses such as false advertising, filing false statements to the FREC, or other violations of Chapter 475 F.S. are misdemeanors of the second degree
  • felony of the third degree results in a penalty of a fine up to $5,000 and/or 5 years in jail; offenses such as stealing or copying the state licensure examination, making misleading statements on a licensure application, and practicing real estate without a valid license are felonies of the third degree

Any licensee who pleads guilty or nolo contendere or is found guilty of a misdemeanor or felony must notify the Commission within 30 days of the plea or conviction. Failure to report the plea or conviction may result in the licensee being disciplined.

Reporting licensees should use Florida’s Criminal Self-Reporting Document which can be found online at

http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/pro/documents/Criminal%20Self%20Reporting_05.2019.pdf