What Not to Do

A look at recent DSPS disciplinary cases


 Cori Lamont  |    September 13, 2021
What Not to Do

Professionalism has been identified by both the WRA board of directors and members as one of the WRA’s biggest priorities. This article shares some recent examples of actions and behaviors that led to the Real Estate Examining Board (REEB) taking disciplinary action against real estate licensees. Simply stated, this article provides examples of what not to do as a Wisconsin real estate licensee. 

All Wisconsin real estate licensees are regulated by the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) and, more specifically, the REEB. In 2021, the REEB launched an electronic newsletter, which can be found at dsps.wi.gov/Pages/BoardsCouncils/RealEstate/Newsletter.aspx. The REEB intends to publish the newsletter three times a year as a way to offer guidance regarding REEB policies, current administrative rule projects, WB forms updates and disciplinary actions taken by the REEB. 

All disciplinary actions are available to the public, including those imposed by the REEB. To search by board or specific profession, visit online.drl.wi.gov/orders/searchorders.aspx

It is also important to note that when a real estate licensee who is also a REALTOR® has acted unethically or incompetently, there are three different avenues for calling the REALTOR® out on their behavior. All three of these options can be exercised; it is not necessary to choose only one.

  1. File a complaint at the DSPS.
  2. File a complaint at the local REALTOR® association.  
  3. File a lawsuit.

Note that the facts of the cases have remained substantially similar to the language used within the DSPS orders.

Disburse per the CAMR

Facts

  • Broker’s license was first issued on October 17, 2006; current through December 14, 2022.
  • October 8, 2018, the DSPS received a complaint alleging Respondent refused to return earnest money owed to Complainants.
  • A case was subsequently opened for investigation.
  • In 2018, Respondent represented the seller in a real estate transaction in Madison.
  • June 11, 2018, Complainants submitted a WB-11 Offer to Purchase for the subject property, which included an Appraisal Contingency.
  • July 2, 2018, the appraisal of the property reported a lower price than the accepted purchase price. The parties could not come to an agreement on a new purchase price. 
  • July 6 and 9, 2018, Complainants and the seller signed the WB-45 Cancellation Agreement and Mutual Release (CAMR), which stated that the earnest money would be returned to Complainants. 
  • Shortly after signing the CAMR, Respondent refused to return the earnest money to Complainants and accused Complainants of “fixing” the appraisal to get out of purchasing the subject property. 
  • November 26, 2018, Respondent stated Complainants had improperly used the appraisal to get out of purchasing the subject property in order to pursue another nearby property. 
  • December 31, 2018, Complainants’ agent’s firm stated complainants could not “fix” the appraisal because the appraisal was generated independently without input from the buyers, agents or lender. 
  • Complainants’ agent’s firm also stated the other property pursued by Complainants was not actually listed on the MLS until July 9, 2018, after the CAMR had been signed.

Violations

  • Failing to properly disburse trust funds from a firm’s real estate trust account. Wis. Admin. Code § REEB 18.09(I).
  • Failing to act to protect the public against fraud, misrepresentation and unethical practices. Wis. Admin. Code § REEB 24.03(2)(b).

Discipline 

  • Within 60 days of the order date, successfully complete six hours of education on the topic of ethics, and one course of education on the topic of contract law, including taking and passing any exam(s) offered for the course(s).

Canceled showing doesn’t permit agent to go through seller’s belongings

Facts

  • Salesperson’s license was first issued on August 1, 2018; expired as of December 15, 2020.
    February 6, 2019, the DSPS received a complaint alleging Respondent went through Complainant’s personal belongings while showing Complainant’s home. Subsequently a case was opened for investigation.
  • May 11, 2019, the DSPS emailed Respondent and Respondent’s employer to request a response to the complaint.
  • May 20, 2019, Respondent stated he had an appointment to show Complainant’s home in Tomah, Wisconsin, on February 4, 2019. Respondent stated when the prospective buyers decided not to view the home, Respondent decided to view the home himself. Respondent admitted that this was unprofessional and unethical. 
  • May 21, 2019, Respondent’s employer stated they had terminated Respondent, and that the company had reviewed security camera footage that depicted Respondent moving through the home and opening and shutting drawers or cabinets.
  • June 3, 2020, Respondent stated he was no longer working as a real estate salesperson.

Discipline 

  • Voluntary surrender of right to renew salesperson’s license.

Offer must be in writing and follow client’s directions 

Facts

  • Salesperson’s license was first issued on June 13, 2005, and current through December 14, 2022.
  • December 27, 2018, the DSPS received a complaint alleging Respondent had acted improperly during a real estate transaction.
  • December 1, 2017, Respondent drafted a WB-1 Residential Listing Contract – Exclusive Right to Sell between Respondent and the property seller. Line 20 of the form states the marketing of the property may include “NO SIGN.”
  • November 27, 2018, the agent of a potential buyer (VW) drafted an offer to purchase (OTP) the seller’s property. The OTP states it could be personally delivered to Respondent, faxed to Respondent or emailed to Respondent. Lines 459 to 461 of the OTP state the offer was presented to the seller by Respondent and the offer is countered. However, the OTP does not state when it was presented to the seller, and the seller did not initial the OTP at all. Respondent asserts seller declined to sign the OTP.
  • The transaction file contains a WB-44 Counter-Offer to VW’s OTP. Lines 36 to 38 of the counter-offer state that it was drafted by Respondent on November 29, 2018. The seller did not sign the counter-offer.
  • April 10, 2019, Respondent stated he told VW to contact the seller directly to negotiate VW’s OTP.
  • April 10, 2019, Respondent stated Respondent received a verbal OTP from a potential buyer in March 2018. Respondent stated he wrote an OTP for the potential buyer, but he did not have the potential buyer sign the written OTP, and he did not present the written OTP to the seller, as the seller declined to review written offers. Instead, Respondent presented the verbal OTP to the seller and encouraged the seller to respond to the verbal OTP. 
  • April 10, 2019, Respondent acknowledged the seller requested that no signs be used in the listing of the seller’s property, but stated during the last month of the listing contract he put up an “arrow sign” on the highway and road pointing toward the seller’ s property.

Violations

  • Failing to put an offer to purchase in writing. Wis. Admin. Code § REEB 24.08.
  • Failing to provide brokerage services with reasonable skill and care pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 452.133(4m)(a). Wis. Stat. § 452.133(I )(b).

Discipline

  • Within 60 days of the order date, successfully complete three (3) credits of remedial education on the topic of business ethics, and three (3) credits of remedial education on the topic of approved forms, including taking and passing any exam(s) offered for the course(s).
  • Within 90 days from the order date, pay costs in the amount of $748.

Use the correct forms and don’t practice without a license 

Facts

  • Broker’s license was first issued on September 9, 2019; current through December 14, 2022.
  • May 29, 2018, the DSPS received a complaint from E.A., who had signed a listing contract with Respondent on April 10, 2017, for the sale of her rental house. E.A. raised a number of issues in her complaint.
  • November 29, 2018, the DSPS sent a letter to Respondent asking for a response to the issues raised by E.A. as well as a copy of her entire transaction file. The response was due on December 29, 2018. 
  • December 29, 2018, Respondent emailed her response. This response was a timeline of events in her representation of E.A. Respondent did not include any documentation.
  • January 3, 2019, Respondent emailed again and stated she did everything she could to help E.A. sell her home. She stated she was attaching some documents relating to an offer made on E.A.’s home. The two documents provided were a CAMR, signed on July 6, 2017, relating to an offer made on May 29, 2017, as well as an offer made on July 3, 2017, which E.A. rejected on July 6, 2017. Respondent did not include any additional documents. 
  • In the timeline provided by Respondent, she states they received a cash offer on April 20, 2017. She stated E.A. rejected the offer because it was too low. Respondent did not provide any documentation relating to this offer.
  • According to E.A. and Respondent, Respondent found new potential buyers for E.A.’s home, and on October 11, 2017, Respondent prepared a WB-11 Offer to Purchase on their behalf. On this form, Respondent listed herself as the “Agent of Buyer,” rather than “Agent of Buyer and Seller.” No buyer agency agreement between Respondent and the potential buyers was supplied to the DSPS. 
  • E.A. accepted the offer, and it was scheduled to close on November 15, 2017. However, the buyers had trouble obtaining financing for the house, and closing was rescheduled for March 15, 2018. The transaction did not close on March 15, 2018. The DSPS did not receive any documentation regarding either of the changed closing dates. 
  • March 21, 2018, E.A.’s daughter spoke with Respondent’s supervising broker and requested the offer be terminated. E.A. met with the supervising broker on March 23, 2018, and signed a CAMR.
  • Respondent stated in her response to the DSPS when the closing was postponed in November 2017, E.A. had suggested she go back to renting the house. Respondent stated she suggested the interested buyers could rent the house with an option to buy. 
  • Respondent did not provide a copy of a property management agreement with E.A. or the renters. She also does not reference having prepared or signed such an agreement.
  • Respondent stated in her response to the DSPS that E.A. agreed to rent to the buyers. Respondent told E.A. she did not need to hire an attorney and she (Respondent) would get a lease. Respondent provided a lease that did not appear to be from the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association,
    an attorney or Respondent’ s broker.
  • Respondent claimed she met in person with E.A. and the renters on December 3, 2017, and everyone signed the lease. However, at the top of the lease document, it states that it was executed on December 1, 2017. Above the signature lines, it states, “The parties have agreed and executed this agreement on November 19th 2017.” Further, next to E.A.’s signature is the date “12/11/2017.” There is no date listed next to the renters’ signatures.
  • Respondent’s salesperson’s license and broker’s license both lapsed after neither was renewed by December 14, 2020. On January 28, 2021, Respondent renewed her broker’s license.
  • According to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), Respondent listed a house for sale on January 15, 2021.

Violations

  • Failing to use approved forms in such a manner as to adequately accomplish the contractual instruction of the person for whom the licensee uses the forms. Wis. Admin. Code § REEB 16.06(8).
  • Failing to put in writing all listing contracts, guaranteed sales agreements, buyer agency agreements, offers to purchase, property management agreements, option contracts, financial obligations and any other commitments regarding transactions, expressing the exact agreement of the parties. Wis. Admin. Code § REEB 24.08.
  • Failing to use approved forms in a transaction in which the licensee was acting in a capacity as a  licensee. Wis. Admin. Code §§ REEB 16.03(e) and 16.05(3).
  • Failing to provide brokerage services with reasonable skill and care, pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 452.133(4m)(a). Wis. Stat. § 452.133(1)(b).
  • Practicing real estate without a license. Wis. Stat. § 452.03.

Discipline

  • Within 90 days of the order date, complete an education course on the topic of business ethics, including taking and passing any exam offered for this course. 
  • Within 90 days of the order date, complete an education course on the topic of consumer protection, including taking and passing any exam offered for this course. 
  • Within 90 days from the order date, pay costs of $814.

Need written agency disclosure statement

Facts

  • Broker’s license was first issued on May 30, 2012; current through December 14, 2022.
  • Business entity license was first issued on May 8, 2013; current through December 14, 2022.
  • October 9, 2019, the DSPS received a complaint alleging Respondents did not fulfill their verbal agreement with Complainant to rehabilitate and manage two of Complainant’ s properties. A case was subsequently opened for investigation.
  • In April 2018, Complainant purchased two real estate properties in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with Respondent as agent.
  • December 2, 2019, the DSPS emailed Respondent to request a copy of the transaction file for Complainant’s two properties.
  • December 3, 2019, Respondent emailed the transaction file to the DSPS. 
  • The DSPS reviewed the transaction file and determined the Respondents did not provide Complainant a written copy of the disclosure statement described in Wis. Stat. § 452.135(1)(a). 
  • April 6, 2020, the DSPS emailed Respondent to request the complete transaction file, including the written buyer agency agreement and any disclosures provided to Complainant. 
  • April 6, 2020, Respondent emailed the DSPS and confirmed there was no buyer agency agreement between Respondents and Complainant. Respondent was not able to provide the DSPS a copy of any disclosure statement provided to Complainant.

Violations

  • Negotiating on behalf of a party who is not the firm’s client without providing to the party a copy of the written disclosure statement provided in this statute. Wis. Stat. § 452.135(1)(a).

Discipline

  • Within 60 days of the order date, successfully complete one course of education on the topic of transaction documents, including taking and passing any exam(s) offered for the course(s). 
  • Within 90 days from the order date, pay one-half of the costs in the amount of $682.
  • Within 90 days from the order date, business entity to pay one-half of the costs in the amount of $682.

Drafting errors in offers matter 

Facts

  • Salesperson’s license was first issued on March 20, 2015; expired on December 15, 2018.
  • December 5, 2018, a DSPS investigator sent a memorandum to the REEB explaining in his work on another case, which involved Respondent’s Dwelling Contractor Certification, he had discovered a number of issues that he thought might constitute rule or law violations relating to Respondent’s real estate salesperson’s license. In that case, the DSPS revoked Respondent’s Dwelling Contractor Certification due to unsatisfied construction liens and foreclosure judgments against him in Wisconsin circuit courts. The DSPS opened an investigation regarding Respondent’s real estate license.
  • December 12, 2018, the DSPS sent a letter to Respondent at his address of record to request a written response to the allegations and a copy of the transaction file. 
  • December 17, 2018, Respondent replied and stated he thought this case had been closed. He stated he no longer had any information regarding the transaction at issue. He did not provide any documentation.
  • December 18, 2018, the DSPS received the transaction file from Respondent’ s former supervising broker.
  • The WB-11 Offer to Purchase the Respondent drafted for client G.M., signed on April 18, 2017, included the following errors:
    • On Line 1, Respondent entered his name instead of the drafting date.
    • On Lines 5 and 6, Respondent did not properly enter the town information.
    • Respondent did not enter the property address at the tops of pages 3, 5, 7 and 9.
    • On line 459, Respondent did not enter his Real Estate Business Entity.
  • Respondent informed the DSPS that he no longer works in real estate and will not seek to renew his license for the foreseeable future.

Violations

  • Failing to provide brokerage services with reasonable skill and care, pursuant to § 452.133(4m)(a). Wis. Stat. § 452.133(1)(b).
  • Failing to use approved forms in such a manner as to adequately accomplish the contractual instruction of the person for whom the licensee uses the forms. Wis. Admin. Code § REEB 16.06(8).

Discipline 

• Voluntary surrender of right to renew salesperson’s license.

Honesty is the best policy

Facts

  • Salesperson’s license was first issued on April 19, 2017; current through December 14, 2022.
  • November 27, 2018, the DSPS received a complaint from J.D., a licensee who represented the sellers in a transaction in which Respondent represented potential buyers.
  • Respondent and J.D. and their clients executed an offer to purchase on November 5, 2018.
  • Respondent scheduled a home inspection for November 12, 2018. 
  • J.D. stated, “When follow up was made after inspection, I was told all went well.” J.D. later found out that the buyers never showed up for the inspection. 
  • November 26, 2018, J.D. again contacted Respondent, and he told J.D. he had been unable to contact the buyers and that they would no longer be purchasing the property. 
  • March 18, 2019, the DSPS emailed Respondent and requested a response to the complaint along with his entire transaction file. Respondent sent in his response on March 25, 2019. The response included only a partial transaction file. The documents contained limited correspondence between Respondent and J.D. and did not include any correspondence with the buyers. 
  • May 7, 2019, the DSPS emailed Respondent and again requested the entire transaction file, including all correspondence between him and the buyers. Respondent replied on May 14, 2019, stating he had changed his cell phone and he lost a lot of texts, but he was working on gathering everything to send to the DSPS. 
  • December 11, 2019, having not received a response from Respondent to the May email, the DSPS contacted Respondent again by email and requested the correspondence between him and the buyers. Respondent replied the same day and provided some text messages between himself and the buyers. 
  • In a text dated November 30, 2018, one of the buyers stated, “This should have been canceled the day that we said we could
    not afford payment.” 
  • On the WB-11 Offer to Purchase Respondent drafted for the buyers, he failed to indicate which party he was representing on lines I and 2 of the form.
  • In his written response to the complaint, Respondent stated he scheduled the home inspection, but the buyers decided to reschedule it. On the rescheduled date, neither the inspector nor the buyers showed up. He called the inspector, who told him the buyers had canceled it.
  • Respondent stated he told J.D. the inspection needed to be rescheduled. He did not tell J.D. that he could not locate the buyers.
  • Respondent stated he attempted to contact the buyers multiple times, even after the earnest money deadline passed. Respondent stated since the buyers did not comply with the earnest money terms, he assumed the buyers were out of the contract.

Violations 

  • Failing to provide brokerage services honestly and fairly, pursuant to § 452.133(4m)(a). Wis. Stat. § 452.133(1 )(a).
  • Failing to provide brokerage services with reasonable skill and care, pursuant to § 452.133(4m)(a). Wis. Stat. § 452.133(1)(b).
  • Failing to respond to the DSPS and the REEB regarding a request for information within 30 days of the date of the request. Wis. Admin. Code § REEB 24.17(5).

Discipline

  • Within 90 days of the order date, pay costs of this matter in the amount of $928.

Complete addenda correctly and provide accurate information

Facts

  • Broker’s license was first issued on January 2, 2005; current through December 14, 2020.
  • October 24, 2018, the DSPS received a complaint alleging that Respondent reported an incorrect closing price for a property to the REALTORS® Association of Northeast Wisconsin MLS. The DSPS subsequently opened the case for investigation.
  • On June 22, 2017, Respondent drafted a RANW Addendum A to the Offer to Purchase that failed to either select or waive the Non-Conforming Property, Variances and Conditional Use Permits, Floodplain/Wetlands and Radon Testing contingencies. 
  • Complainant provided an October 24, 2018, MLS listing showing an incorrect closing price of $749,000 for Wxx ______ Lane. Respondent corrected the MLS listing on January 17, 2018.
  • August 1, 2019, a DSPS investigator verified that the MLS data sheet for Wxx ______ Lane accurately reflected the closing amount of $650,000.

Violations

  • Failing to provide brokerage services with reasonable skill and care, pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 452.133(4m)(a). Wis. Stat. § 452.133(1)(b).
  • Failing to use approved forms and prepare addenda in such a manner as to adequately accomplish the contractual instruction of the person for whom the licensee uses the forms and prepares the addenda. Wis. Admin. Code § REEB 16.06(8).

Discipline

  • Within 90 days from the order date, successfully complete one remedial education course on the topic of approved forms and one remedial education course on the topic of office management, and passing any exam(s) offered for the course(s).
  • Within 90 days from the order date, pay the costs in the amount of $780.

Know how to set up and manage trust accounts 

Facts

  • Broker’s license was first issued on April 25, 2011; current through December 14, 2022.
  • Real Estate Business Entity was first issued on December 6, 2011; expired on December 15, 2018.
  • Broker is identified in DSPS records as the responsible licensee of the LLC.
  • March 23, 2018, the DSPS received a complaint against Respondents from D.T., who owns two properties that the property company manages. D.T. alleged the company had made billing errors, failed to transfer security deposit funds to his trust account and refused to comply with an audit, among other allegations. The case was opened for investigation. 
  • The DSPS sought a response from the broker as to D.T.’s complaints. As part of her response, the broker provided emails and bank statements regarding her interactions with D.T. The documentation the broker provided showed the security deposits D.T. had requested were sent to D.T. on March 19, 2018, and D.T. deposited the checks on March 27, 2018.
  • The bank account from which the broker wrote the checks for the security deposits did not appear to be a trust account. Additionally, the account had several debit entries for restaurants, retail establishments, gas stations, etc; that were posted between March 1, 2018, and March 12, 2018.
  • May 24, 2018, the DSPS requested the company establish a trust account by June 24, 2018, and provide month-end reports for the subsequent two months. The DSPS provided a copy of Form 235 8, “Requirements for Real Estate Trust Account Bookkeeping System,” to the broker to educate her on what information she needed to provide the DSPS. 
  • June 18, 2018, the DSPS auditor spoke to the broker and explained her company needed to maintain one or more trust accounts for both tenant rent payments and security deposit funds. The broker indicated she had previously attempted to set up a trust account, but her bank was confused by the type of account she wanted to establish.
  • July 6, 2018, the broker faxed a form to the DSPS indicating she had opened a new bank account with a $100 deposit, but the account name did not indicate it was a trust account as required.
  • August 1, 2018, the DSPS auditor emailed the broker and requested she provide documentation proving trust account compliance, including a cash journal/checkbook register; a list of all client accounts the company managed; the trial balance for each client account as of June 30, 2018; trust account statements for May, June and July 2018; and reconciliation detail reports for May through July 2018.
  • August 13, 2018, in correspondence to the DSPS, the broker wrote she had previously kept records via spreadsheets and was unable to provide bank statements. The broker stated security deposits were returned in checks written to tenants, a monthly statement to the property owner or a check written to the owner. The broker provided account spreadsheets, copies of canceled checks and copies of monthly statements to owners. The account spreadsheets omitted February 2018. 
  • Between September 10, 2018, and November 15, 2018, the broker emailed the DSPS her client account summary spreadsheets and bank statements for August, September and October 2018. The bank statements indicated the broker established a “Basic Business Checking” account, entitled with the company name and the words “trust account.”
  • The statement indicated two deposits were made on August 7, 2018, in the amounts of $100 and $27,682. An amount of $204.70 was debited from the account on August 23, 2018, for “____ ____ Chk Orders,” which is a check-printing company.
  • The August 2018 account balance was off by $204.70, and September 2018 was off by $209.70.
  • The October 2018 account spreadsheet indicated there should have been $25,567 in the account, but the bank statement indicated there was $25,877.30 in the account. 
  • The documents note $525 was disbursed to property owner and noted that this disbursement occurred in August 2018 via a statement, not a check. The broker stated she erroneously paid this out from the “operating account,” not the trust account.
  • The broker never provided the cash journal/checkbook register or bank statements for May, June and July 2018.
  • According to the DSPS auditor, the broker state the real estate business entity held collected rents for owners, but these funds were not deposited into a trust account. 

Violations

  • Failing to deposit rent payments in a real estate trust account. Wis. Admin. Code § REEB 18.031.
  • Comingling personal funds or other funds in the real estate trust account. Wis. Admin. Code § REEB 18.10(1)(a).
  • Failing to maintain a record, called a journal, showing the chronological sequence in which real estate trust funds were received and disbursed, according to subs. (a)-(d). Wis. Admin. Code § REEB 18.13(1).
  • Failing to maintain a record including the receipts and the disbursements as they affect each particular transaction, including transactions between buyer and seller, landlord and tenant, etc. The ledger entry shall include the names of all parties to a transaction, the dates and the amounts received, and the name of the party or parties providing the money if different from the buyer. Ledger entries shall include at least the date; payee; number of the check, share draft or draft; and amount when funds are disbursed. The ledger shall include a running balance and segregate each transaction. The firm shall maintain a separate ledger or separate section of the ledger for each of the various kinds of real estate transactions, including sales, rental collections, or mortgage and land contract collections. Wis. Admin. Code § REEB 18.13(2).
  • Failing to reconcile the real estate trust account in writing each month, except in the case where there has been no activity during the month. The written reconciliation shall include at least the ending account statement balance; the date and amounts of the deposits in transit; the number of the check, share draft or draft; and amount of checks, share drafts, or drafts written but not paid by the depository institution as of the ending date shown on the account statement to be reconciled; and the reconciled account statement ending balance. Wis. Admin. Code § REEB 18.13(3).
  • Failing to prepare or have prepared a written listing of all open items in the real estate trust account. The written listing shall be referred to as the “trial balance.” The listing shall include at least the names of all parties to the transaction and the amount held in trust for the parties at the time corresponding to the account reconciliation. The firm may, in lieu of the names of the parties to the transaction, substitute the ledger page number or other means of identification from the ledger to label the funds in the trial balance. Wis. Admin. Code § REEB 18.13(4).
  • Failing to review the reconciled account statement balance, open ledger account listing, and journal running balance to ensure that all of these records are valid and in agreement as of the date the account statement has been reconciled. Wis. Admin. Code § REEB 18.13(5).
  • Failing to provide brokerage services with reasonable skill and care and failing to safeguard trust funds and other property held as required by rules promulgated under § 452.13(5). Wis. Stat. § 452.133(1)(b) and (I).
  • Demonstrating incompetency to act as a broker in a manner that safeguards the interests of the public, pursuant to Wis. Admin. Code § REEB 18.14. Wis. Stat. § 452.14(3)(i).

Discipline 

  • Prohibited from holding client funds in trust. 
  • Within 90 days from the order date, the broker shall pay costs of $1,656.

Cori Lamont is Senior Director of Legal and Public Affairs for the WRA.

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