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Realty Builder
Jax Daily Record Friday, Dec. 13, 201312:00 PM EST

Advice from Florida Realtors about complaints


The following questions and answers are provided by Florida Realtors, the state's real estate association. Questions about these opinions should be directed to the association's legal department at (407) 436-1409.

Q: A FREC investigator interviewed me as a witness to a transaction that resulted in a complaint against a broker in my area. I don't want any trouble, so I cooperated and told the investigator what I know about the transaction. The broker was suspended and is threatening to sue me for talking to the investigator. May I be sued for being a witness? 

A: Section 455.225(11), Florida Statutes, provides that a privilege against civil liability is granted to any witness to an investigation, unless the witness acted in bad faith or with malice in providing such information. 

Q: How can I file a complaint with the Florida Real Estate Commission? 

A: All complaints must be in writing. Although you may write a letter, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation provides a Uniform Complaint Form that is available from various sources, including and

Q: A former client informed me that he was unhappy with my performance in handling his transaction, and he is going to file a complaint against me with the Florida Real Estate Commission. What happens once a complaint is filed? 

A: Once a complaint is filed, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) determines whether or not the allegations in the complaint would, if true, constitute a violation of Section 475, Florida Statutes or the rules promulgated by the FREC.

If DBPR determines they would constitute a violation, it will initiate an investigation. DBPR is required by law to notify the licensee or his or her attorney by promptly providing a copy of the complaint or other document that prompted the decision to investigate.

Q: An administrative complaint has been filed against me. The complaint contains two counts. If I'm found in violation of both counts and the Florida Real Estate Commission imposes a fine as part of the penalty, what is the maximum fine that could be levied against me? 

A: According to 475.25, the maximum administrative fine that FREC may impose is $5,000 for each count or separate offense a licensee is found to be in violation of. 

Q: I'm a real estate broker. I recently heard from one of my sales associates that another sales associate in the office had an administrative complaint filed against him by the Florida Real Estate Commission. Will I be notified by FREC that an administrative complaint has been filed against my sales associate? When will this notification be sent to the broker?

A: Yes. Section 475.25(6), Florida Statutes, provides that the DBPR or FREC "shall promptly notify a licensee's broker or employer … in writing when a formal complaint is filed against the licensee alleging violations of this chapter or Chapter 455."

According to Section 475.25(6), the notification won't be sent until 10 days after the finding of probable cause by the Probable Cause Panel or DBPR or until the sales associate waives his or her privilege of confidentiality, whichever occurs first. 

Q: Will the customer who filed the complaint be notified about the status of the complaint against the licensee? 

A: Yes. The DBPR is required, per Section 455.225(9), Florida Statutes, to periodically notify the person who filed the complaint of the status of the investigation, whether probable cause was found and the status of any administrative proceeding or appeal.

Q: A seller is planning to file a complaint against me with FREC because he is unhappy with the way I handled the sale of his home four years ago. Is there any time limitation for the DBPR/DRE to file an administrative complaint against me? 

A: Yes. Section 475.25(5), Florida Statutes , states that "…an administrative complaint against a broker or broker associate must be filed within 5 years after the time of the act giving rise to the complaint or within 5 years after the time the act is discovered or should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence." 

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