If neither a stipulation agreement nor a voluntary relinquishment for permanent revocation is agreeable to the offending licensee, then the complaint case must be heard in an informal or formal hearing.

Informal hearing

If the licensee chooses not to dispute the allegations presented in a formal complaint, he or she may request an informal hearing before the FREC. The meeting is held during a meeting of the FREC. The licensee may present his or her side of the case and have an attorney and/or witnesses attend on his or her behalf. Only those FREC members who did not serve on the Probable Cause Panel may attend the hearing. 

After hearing the case, the Commission will determine the guilt or innocence of the licensee and impose the appropriate penalty, if any. The Commission will send formal notice to the licensee in the form of a final order. If any dispute arises during the informal hearing, the hearing is to be terminated and the case moved to a formal hearing.

Formal hearing

A formal hearing may be held in either of two situations: the offending licensee disputes allegations and requests a formal hearing, or disputes that arise during an informal hearing result in the case being heard in a formal hearing. The hearing is similar to how a case is tried in a civil or criminal court with each party presenting facts and witnesses.

As in an informal hearing, the licensee may have an attorney and/or witnesses on his or her behalf. If necessary, witnesses may be subpoenaed by the judge. 

After the case is heard, the judge will issue a recommended order to the FREC and provide a copy to the licensee. The order will contain the judge’s findings, conclusions, and recommended penalties, if any. Parties of record in the case may submit written exceptions to the judge’s recommended order that clearly identify the legal basis for the exception.

FREC-issued final order

After receiving the recommended order from the formal hearing judge, the Commission will review all information from the informal and formal hearings as well as any stipulations, voluntary relinquishments, and exceptions to determine if guilt has been established and if discipline is warranted. The Commission may reject, modify, or accept the recommended order as the final order. 

If penalties are deemed warranted, the Commission can impose fines, license suspension, or license revocation to permanently block the offender from practicing real estate in Florida. At any point in the complaint process that the offender’s actions are considered dangerous to the public, the DBPR Secretary may issue a summary suspension of the offender’s license.

After the Commission has reviewed the case and ruled on guilt or innocence and discipline, it will issue a final order within 90 days of receiving the recommended order. The final order will include a ruling on each exception previously submitted. 

The Commission will then send a copy of the final order to all parties to the case and inform them of the process to appeal the ruling. A copy of the final order must also be sent to the DRE within 15 days after the order is filed with the clerk. The final order can be used as prima facie evidence in any resulting civil case related to the complaint and final ruling.

Judicial review

A licensee who disagrees with the final order may file an appeal with the DBPR and the District Court of Appeals within 30 days of receiving the order. The licensee may also file a stay of enforcement to stop the enforcement of the final order until the appeal is completed. When the stay request is filed, the court issues a writ of supersedeas which overrides the Commission’s final order and allows the licensee to continue practicing real estate until completion of the appeal.

During the appeal, if the court finds that the Commission made a material error, the court will require corrective action by the Commission. However, with no finding of error by the FREC and no other legitimate grounds for modifying or dismissing the final order, the court must find in support of the FREC’s final order. If the court finds in favor of the licensee, the licensee’s rights must be restored. The court may award the licensee attorney and court fees.