When advertising your services or a property in Washington, DC, it is important to keep the DC Real Estate Licensure Law in mind.
The law spells out the requirements for brokers and salespersons licensed in DC, including how they must represent themselves or a property in marketing and advertising.
Even how you present yourself on a business card or sign is critical. According to Schanolia Barnes, Education Liaison with the DC Board of Real Estate, "An agent must use the exact name in which his or her license was issued. If the DC Board of Real Estate issued a license under the name Jack Sprat, with Sprat Realty Company, he must use the name Jack Sprat on his business cards. Pen, abbreviated, or nicknames may be considered a misrepresentation and may lead to misunderstandings, and are prohibited."
Even using a nickname on your business card or a sign can be misleading if your license has your full name. In addition, the law requires that you use the name of the real estate brokerage company under which you work. If you prominently advertise, in big bold letters, "Call Jack" or "Bob" or "Sue" without making reference to the name under which your license was issued and your brokerage company, then you're in violation of the law, whether you're a salesperson, property manager, or broker.
Being overly creative in advertising can lead to "substantial misrepresentation", another prohibitive act of the law. A salesperson or broker may be subject to disciplinary action and fines if he or she "knowingly prepared, distributed or circulated or caused the preparation, distribution, or circulation of any false or misleading advertisement in connection with the sale, exchange, purchase, lease or rental of real estate business."
To get a copy of the regulations, visit www.asisvcs.com.
- Click on "Publications."
- Choose "Real Estate" as the Area of Interest and the "District of Columbia" as the state.
- Click on "Regulations."
You may also request a copy from ASI by calling (888) 204-6192.
Ask for the DC real estate licensure law, formally known as the Non-Health Related Occupations and Professions Licensure Act of 1998.
Nickname and Team Name Advertising
The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation last year that would allow licensees to use nicknames in their real estate advertising, including signs, business cards, etc. The law prior to October 1, 2002 requires licensees to use their full legal name in any advertisement.
Under the new law, licensees may register their nickname with the Maryland Real Estate Commission which is authorized to charge licensees $5 for the name change.
In addition, the Maryland Real Estate Commission added an amendment to the bill which would require the broker's name to be displayed at least as large as the agent's name in future advertising. The effective date of this section of the law was delayed until October 1, 2004.
Team Name Advertising
At the December 6, 2002 Maryland Real Estate Commission (MDREC) meeting, the MDREC discussed and passed a policy that would allow real estate teams to advertise. Under current law, there is no provision that technically allows a team to advertise. However, the Commission has proposed a regulation that will allow teams to advertise if they meet the following requirements:
- The name of at least one agent of the team must be listed on the advertisement.
- The team may list all team members on the advertisement as well, but if they list any unlicensed member of the team on the advertisement, the licensees on the advertisement would have to disclose that they are licensed. If no unlicensed person is listed on the advertisement, then licensees would not have to indicate that they are licensed.
- The Broker's name would have to be present on the advertisement as well, and would have to be the same size as the team name on the advertisement.
Because this is a proposed regulation, it will not have the effect of law until it is passed. The soonest this regulation could be passed and in effect is September 2003, and it could be even later.
In the interim, the Commission has indicated that it will not pursue advertising violations by teams as long as a licensee's name and the broker's name are listed in a meaningful and conspicuous way in the advertisement.