Legal Answers at Your Fingertips

Accessing WRA legal resources online


 Debbi Conrad  |    November 08, 2013
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Without question, technology plays an increasingly important role in the day-to-day job of a REALTOR®. Smartphones and the latest innovative apps are often necessities for cutting-edge practice. But one constant tool available to members, whether they use desktop computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones or other devices, is the online WRA legal resources. Members should be sure that they know how to access this wealth of legal information at their fingertips that can help them when facing a legal question.

“I’m sure I read that someplace before”

The WRA website is an outstanding resource for any legal or practice information that a member may need. One way to find legal information is to use the Legal Search, the first item under the Legal tab on the WRA homepage. To access the Legal section, users must pass through the “security gate” by entering a username and password.

The legal search will return a list of website sources including Legal Hottips, Legal Updates and magazine articles. The results can be filtered to show just results from a specific source by clicking on the Filter by Category line appearing above the search results. 

For example, if someone remembers reading an article about a court case involving a vacation home that was infested with bat guano, a search for “bat guano” shows you that the Hirschhorn case was discussed in four places with varying degrees of detail. It was covered in “Vacation: All I Ever Wanted,” which is a May 2013 Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine article; the October 2012 Legal Update that discusses case law relating to residential transactions; the May magazine PDF, and the December 2012 Legal Update that summarizes REALTOR® highlights for 2012. If the full account of the case was what you had in mind, you can click on the October 2012 Legal Update, which will open the Legal Update PDF. 

Once there, where do you go? To find the Hirschhorn case, you can either use the keyboard command “Control+F,” or if you look under the Edit heading at the top of the screen, you can click on Find. Either one takes you to the Find function where you can type in a keyword such as “guano” and click on enter or the Next button. This leads directly to the case summary at page 9 of the October 2012 Legal Update. The “May Magazine” PDF brings up the entire May 2013 Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine, so again use the “Control+F” or the Find tool to zero in on the article by using a keyword like “guano” or “Hirschhorn.”

Legal hotline library 

The WRA Legal Hotline Hottips Library at www.wra.org/Hottips is comprised of WRA Legal Hotline questions and answers recently discussed on the hotline. These questions are chosen to reflect frequently asked questions or timely topics, are sent to all members in the weekly Hottips e-mail and then added to the Hottips library. The Hottips may be accessed by topic, with 18 main categories and multiple sub-topics, and are updated regularly — new information will be added and old material will be deleted. The information presented in the library is current as of the date of the original posting.

Tips for searching for hottips

The Legal Search tool often will often lead to Hottips in the results. Another way to search the Hottips is to use the categories and topics. For example, a buyer has asked about testing for asbestos.

  1. Go to the Legal Hotline Hottips Library introduction page at www.wra.org/Hottips.
  2. Click on By Topic in the left column, which will take you to the Website Hotline Library Category Search at www.wra.org/HottipSearch
  3. First click on a category. You then will be presented with of group of topics relating to that category. For the asbestos testing example, first click on Offer to Purchase.
  4. Next click on a topic. For the example, click on Testing.
  5. You are then able to see a list of questions, and you may scroll through those. You can click where it says Answer: Click Here if you want to see an answer for one of the questions. If you would like to see all of the answers displayed, click on the “expand all” line on the right directly above the boxes containing the questions and answers. 
  6. Once you are within hottips and in the “expand all” mode, you can then search further by using the Find function (this may be in a dropdown box at the top of the screen or use the Control+F command). That is a way to focus your search within the hottips. If you search for asbestos, you are taken to a June 15, 2009 Hottip about a situation where the buyer asked to have insulation tested for asbestos. The hottip also contains links to other resources regarding asbestos and asbestos testing.

Using the Legal Hotline

Of course all of this valuable information in the hottips library comes from the questions our members ask of the WRA Legal Hotline.

Who can use the WRA Legal Hotline? 

The legal hotline is a service provided exclusively to the members of the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association and their attorneys. WRA dues pay for this member service. The service is not available to the public including the parties to your transactions. For this reason, REALTORS® should refer clients and customers to private attorneys whenever they need legal advice about a particular transaction.

What subject areas does the hotline cover? 

Generally the hotline offers information regarding real estate practice, license law, REEB administrative regulations, the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, listing contracts, offers to purchase, forms use, disclosures, agency law, office management, landlord–tenant law, fair housing, land use issues, general real estate law and other related federal, state or local issues. Questions outside the scope of the hotline service, such as tax or securities law — and questions seeking specific legal advice — will be directed to private attorneys or appropriate authorities. New information learned through the hotline process is often shared with the membership through Legal Hottips, Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine, live presentations to members or the Legal Update.

Website and voicemail question submission 

The legal hotline attorneys process hotline questions Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Members may contact the WRA Legal Hotline with specific practice questions or for current developments. WRA members’ questions may be submitted at any time via the website at www.wra.org/HotlineQuestion or by voicemail at 800-799-4468 or 608-242-2296. Questions may also be faxed to 608-242-2279 or mailed, if desired.

When submitting a question to the hotline, a WRA member should be sure to give his or her name and spell the last name if leaving a voicemail, the telephone number where he or she can be reached, an indication if there is a deadline involved, and a brief summary of the question. Website submissions are loaded directly in the hotline computer program while voicemail and other messages are screened to confirm WRA membership and then inputted into the hotline computer program.

What happens when the attorney responds? 

The attorney covering the hotline works from the hotline computer program. The attorney generally will call the member, help identify important issues, and discuss questions and concerns. Occasionally the attorney may simply respond by email. 

The hotline attorneys use their specialized knowledge and experience to provide members with the information necessary to help evaluate the situation described and any possible alternative actions. If the question requires specific legal advice or extensive research, the hotline attorney will suggest that the member consult with private legal counsel.

Please remember that the WRA Legal Hotline is a legal information service and not an attorney-client relationship. In order to provide specific legal advice, a complete understanding of a member’s practice and a detailed review of the particular transaction would be required. This is not possible in the hotline format. 

The hotline typically receives dozens of questions each day. Questions are addressed in the order received unless a specific call-back time frame has been designated. To expedite this process and receive a faster response, please submit legal questions to the hotline and not to individual attorneys or the hotline call-back/message center at 800-844-4046.

A written response will be provided upon request or if the broker requires written responses to all questions submitted from agents within that company. Written responses may be provided by email, mail or fax.

Debbi Conrad is Senior Attorney and Director of Legal Affairs for the WRA.

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