March 2015 | By Erica Christoffer
Teams can be highly productive assets to your brokerage, but they also carry legal risks that are distinct from other regulatory worries. If your brokerage includes real estate teams, make sure they’re adhering to team-specific statutes and rules in your state.
In the National Association of REALTORS®’ latest Window to the Law video, Finley Maxson, NAR senior counsel, and Chloe Hecht, NAR associate counsel, discuss common legal issues associated with real estate teams.
Several states have responded to ambiguities surrounding real estate teams with specific regulations. The biggest concern about teams is that customers may get the impression that they are their own brokerage firm or the customers may be misled as to the true broker responsible for the team, says Maxson.
Maryland is the only state that has a comprehensive statute regulating real estate teams. According to the statute, teams must designate a team leader, maintain a list of members, and refrain from naming themselves in a way that makes them sound like their own brokerage. In addition, real estate teams with members licensed in Maryland are required to clearly display their brokerage name on all advertisements.
Colorado, Louisiana, Maine, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Washington have real estate commission rules pertaining to teams as well. Louisiana’s rule is similar in scope to Maryland’s state statute, Maxson says. The rules in Colorado, Maine, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Washington’s rules hone in on branding and advertising requirements, similar to Maryland’s rule about displaying the brokerage name on team advertising.
Outside of state regulations, all real estate teams are subject to the REALTOR® trademark rules. Of course, only members of NAR can use the trademark. Furthermore, members are only permitted to use the REALTOR® trademark in connection with their personal name and their legal business name, Hecht says. Teams legally function as a group within a business, so team names do not qualify. For example, “Team Sunshine, REALTORS®” is an improper use because the trademark is directly connected to the team name.
Reprinted from realtor.org, March 2015, with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright March 2015. All rights reserved. http://www.realtor.org/