We understand that for most real estate appraisers, appraisal practice is more than just a job – it is your livelihood. Most of our clients have been practicing for years, some for decades without any issues. That is why having a complaint filed against you is as shocking as it is infuriating. And although your livelihood is worth fighting for, you do not have to fight alone. Having a skilled attorney defend your rights throughout the process can alleviate much of the stress and make all the difference in the outcome.
At Durkin Law, our experience is unmatched when dealing with the investigators and prosecutors of the Division of Professional Licensure (DPL). That is because our attorneys have an in-depth understanding of the state laws and regulations that govern real estate appraisal practice in Massachusetts. And while all real estate appraisers are aware that they must practice in compliance with USPAP, many remain unaware that noncompliance with USPAP is a statutory violation, which can be used as evidence against you in a professional negligence lawsuit. That is why understanding the process is critical, as any misstep can result in severe sanctions on your license to practice and earn a living.
When a complaint is filed with the DPL, it triggers an investigation process. An investigation letter will be sent to you, which requires you to submit a response, along with a complete copy of the relevant work-file, within 14-days. However, we advise that you have an experienced attorney prepare this response on your behalf because anything you say or write can and will be used against you. Far too often, real estate appraisers prepare their own responses only to have their words used against them.
Once the response is submitted, the investigator will then compile a record to forward to the Board of Registration of Real Estate Appraisers, who will then make a final determination on whether to dismiss the complaint or proceed with an Order-to-Show-Cause. An Order to Show Cause will contain formal charges against you, often alleging vague and ambiguous violations of state regulations and USPAP standards. The Order to Show Cause must be answered within 21-days or a default decision will be entered, which may result in your immediate discipline. Again, it is imperative that your answer be made through legal counsel.
You have a right to an administrative hearing, and you have a right to be represented by an attorney at this hearing. All hearings are heard before a Hearings Officer, who is also an employee of the DPL. The prosecutor, who represents the Board, has the burden of proving the validity of the allegations against you. At the hearing, your attorney will prepare a legal defense for you, in which he will present evidence and expert witnesses, as well as cross-examine any witness the prosecutor may present. After the hearing concludes, the Hearing Officer will render a tentative decision and decide whether the Board can impose discipline. If the Hearings Officer decides that discipline can be imposed, then the Board will conduct a final review to determine what that discipline will be.
The Board has the authority to discipline a real estate appraiser for serious offenses, such as unethical, incompetent, or fraudulent conduct. But the Board can also impose discipline for minor transgressions, such as not completing continuing education requirements, not having supported adjustments, or simply not using appropriate comparable sales.
There is a wide range of disciplines that can affect your ability to practice, from a public reprimand to either probation, suspension, or revocation of your license. The Board can also impose a fine up to $10,000 and many hours of continuing education, for no credit, and paid for at your expense.
When it is your livelihood at stake, do not take a chance. Over the last 15-years, we have obtained favorable outcomes for hundreds of real estate appraisers who have been unjustly targeted by the Board. If you received a complaint against you, do not wait, call us immediately at (617) 720 - 0332.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I received an investigation letter from the Division of Professional Licensure. Should I respond to it myself?
A: No. Many of our clients believe they can simply provide an explanation to the DPL in hopes that the complaint will just go away. However, it is more likely that any response you provide to the DPL will be used against you as an admission. An experienced attorney is better suited to formulate a strategic response without compromising your defense.
Q: Can I still practice real estate appraisal if I received an Order to Show Cause?
A: Yes. An Order to Show Cause is only a list of formal charges, not a finding of any fault or violation. Your license may only be affected after an adjudicatory hearing is held, and final decision is made by the Board of Registration of Real Estate Appraisers.
Q: Do I have a right to a hearing?
A: Yes. You have a right to request an adjudicatory hearing, which must be made within 21-days of receipt of an Order to Show Cause.
Q: Can I still practice real estate appraisal if I am on probation?
A: Yes. Probation is a disciplinary status that allows the licensee to practice until the expiration date. However, supervising appraisers may not supervise lower level licensees or trainees during the probationary period.
Q: Can I continue to supervise my lower level appraisers or trainees while my license is suspended?
A: No. In fact, no individual may serve as a supervising appraiser if they have been subject to any disciplinary action within the last three (3) years that affects their legal ability to engage in appraisal practice.