House to House: AREC Protecting Arkansans By Andrea Alford, Deputy Executive Director of the AREC The first five words of the Arkansas Real Estate Commission’s mission statement are: “to protect the public interest.” We see that as the ultimate focus of all that we do. In fact, one of our core values is a commitment to serving the citizens of the state of Arkansas by advancing a secure real estate marketplace. In short, protecting the public is taken very seriously at AREC. For the most part, our current statutory and regulatory authority is sufficient to see that mission through. However, it is often said that the only thing that never changes is that everything changes, and occasionally we find ourselves in need of new laws or regulations to help us as we endeavor to serve the citizens of Arkansas. The 89th General Assembly provided us with the opportunity to seek some of those new laws. Four bills were filed that were initiated by AREC, and all four were passed with little difficulty. The first bill passed was SB208, which became Act 112. This Act allows the staff of the Commission to issue citations with fines for technical violations of the Arkansas Real Estate License Law and Commission Regulations. Essentially, this allows the staff of the Commission to take an action that is less severe to the real estate licensee than a formal disciplinary action. What this means for the consumer is that when a licensee commits a technical licensing violation such as failing to renew his license or failing to comply with education requirements, we can issue a simple citation rather than pursuing formal disciplinary action. Having this ability allows us to free up precious resources that can now be invested in pursuing the public’s protection through focusing on more serious matters than disciplining a licensee for not completing his continuing education. The next bill passed was SB212, now Act 158. This legislation adds the Arkansas Real Estate Commission to a list of claimant agencies for the purpose of pursuing former real estate licensees who owe money to the Recovery Fund. The Commission is responsible for administering the Recovery Fund, which was established to pay damage claims to members of the public who have suffered monetary loss specifically attributable to real estate brokers and/or salespersons who have been found, in disciplinary hearings before the Commission, to have violated the Real Estate License Law or Regulations. With this statute, if a former licensee owes the state for money paid out of the Recovery Fund and has a state income tax refund coming, AREC will now be in a position to attach that refund in order to recover the monies owed to the Recovery Fund. This protects the consumer first by allowing the Commission to collect monies that are owed to the state and second by guarding the Recovery Fund, which exists largely for the protection of the public. The third bill passed was SB897, now Act 710. This legislation provides an update to the Timeshare Act, first passed in 1983. Out-of-date terminology was updated with current market offerings in the resort industry. Additionally, monetary protections and registration fees were updated to better represent pricing and market values in the current resort sector. This ensures greater consumer protection and a more equitable and proportionate revenue stream for AREC as a cash-funded agency supported by those our agency regulates. The final bill passed was SB293, now Act 281. This bill assigns the governance of real estate education in Arkansas to the Arkansas Real Estate Commission. This will allow AREC to dedicate more staff and financial resources to real estate education and provide real estate brokers and salespersons greater input on real estate education. Act 281 also provides a mechanism to improve and offer quality broker pre-licensing education. The market for real estate education in Arkansas has long been unable to sustain quality broker education for those wanting to pursue and hold a broker license. This act clears the way to move in that direction. For the consumer, the logic is simple: a more well-educated licensee means a more secure real estate marketplace and, in turn, a more well-protected consumer. AREC is grateful to the following legislators for their support in sponsoring or cosponsoring the above legislation: Senator Jake Files, Representative Mark Biviano, Senator David Johnson and Representative Robert Dale. We are also grateful to the Arkansas Realtors® Association for their support of not only this legislation but all of AREC’s ongoing efforts to ensure the protection of the real estate consumer in the state of Arkansas. House to House is distributed weekly by the Arkansas REALTORS® Association. For more information on homeownership in Arkansas, readers may visit www.ArkansasRealtors.com.