State passes overhaul of broker advertising rules

Long-awaited regulations address online advertising and agent teams
By Adam Pincus | May 01, 2013 01:30PM

The most significant overhaul of New York agent and broker advertising rules in a generation was approved last week and will go into effect Jan. 2.

The New York State Board of Real Estate voted on April 24 to approve an eight-page set of new regulations, replacing outdated guidelines from 1994 that covered a mere two pages.

The main impact of the new rules will be to clarify advertising in the age of the Internet, as well as how to define and describe teams in relation to brokerage firms, real estate insiders said.

For example, brokers, salespersons and teams are permitted to have their own websites, but their supervising broker must authorize the sites, and remain responsible for the content.

In addition, the words “group,” “associate” and “realty” are prohibited when describing a team. That word is the only one that can be used to describe such an association of brokers and agents.

“The question of the Internet, blogs, Facebook and Twitter are all covered,” said Anthony Gatto, director of legal services for the New York State Association of Realtors, who consulted with the board on the measures.

“[The new regulations] tried to be a little more proactive, to encompass future technology as well,” he added.

Currently, there is very little guidance explaining advertising in the digital age, as well as how to describe teams so as not to confuse the public, Gatto said.

The 14-member board includes Diane Ramirez, president of Halstead Property; Eileen Spinola, senior vice president of the Real Estate Board of New York; and Duncan MacKenzie, CEO of the NYSAR. The board advises the New York State Department of State and designs regulations for real estate brokers and salespersons.

“The industry as a whole is happy with [the new regulations]. [There] was a need to update them,” said Neil Garfinkel, an attorney who serves as residential counsel to REBNY and worked with the board on the regulations.

“The teams — if you talk about that in the in context of advertising — there were so many different machinations of team names,” he said. “So now there is going to some good clarity with respect to how you can hold yourself out as a team, and what the name is going to be.”

In addition to passing the regulations, the board also received the latest figures on license complaints from the state.

John Goldman, a license investigator with the state’s Division of Licensing Services, said the number of complaints in the first quarter had fallen by about 28 percent, to 190 from 264 the same period a year earlier.