Most people know that those engaged in real estate brokerage must be licensed by the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. A major purpose and focus of this licensing is “consumer protection” and while a license is certainly no guarantee of competency (any more than a driver’s license guarantees a good driver), there are minimum educational standards for each of the various types of licenses. Laws and rules govern the practice of real estate and are administered by the Maine Real Estate Commission (MREC).
So while the licensing process in real estate bears some resemblance to licensing drivers, there is one important difference. Unlike traffic laws, there really are no “real estate police” as such. In a sense, you – the consumer – share some of the responsibility for policing the industry. So what happens if you think you’ve been “wronged” by a licensed individual?
Your first source of protection is your own knowledge. Obviously, you can’t – and shouldn’t have to – know every regulation that pertains to real estate. But you should question and challenge if something doesn’t seem “right” to you. Real estate transactions typically involve large investments and deserve research and diligence on your part. Listen carefully to what is being said and to what is not being said. Read any document that is presented to you thoroughly and carefully and seek qualified legal advice.
One of the points of being knowledgeable is sometimes people think something is “wrong” when it isn’t. Conversely sometimes people do not realize what is “right” and that they are being wronged!
When things do go wrong, your first line of defense should be the agent you’ve retained. Many times what at first seems “wrong” is just a simple misunderstanding requiring conversation. So the first number you need is the agent’s.
If your agent is not responsive or you aren’t satisfied with the answers you are getting, your next step is to call the designated broker for the agency involved. Listing and buyer representation agreements are between you and the agency—not the individual agent. The designated broker (often shortened to “DB”) is the person ultimately responsible for the legal operation of that agency. Call the company’s main number and ask for the name of the designated broker and speak with him or her directly.
Ultimately, you may also choose to contact the Maine Real Estate Commission at 207 624-8515. Understand that the MREC will not have jurisdiction over disputes between buyers and sellers; they only have authority over licensed individuals and agencies. You will find some general information including additional contact information on the MREC web site.
Of course you are not obligated to complete each of these steps in order and none of this precludes you speaking with your own attorney if you believe the situation merits.