Real estate veterans will get schooled by this new law

Law eliminates industry veterans’ exemption from 22.5 hours of continuing ed

From left: JLL’s Bob Knakal, Brown Harris Stevens' John Burger and Compass’ Adelaide Polsinelli (Credit: Getty Images and iStock)
From left: JLL’s Bob Knakal, Brown Harris Stevens' John Burger and Compass’ Adelaide Polsinelli (Credit: Getty Images and iStock)

Teachers will once again be students, thanks to a new law governing real estate license renewals.

The law, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in late October, eliminates the ability for longtime license holders to be exempt from 22.5 hours of continuing education starting on July 1, 2021.

Previously, any agent or broker licensed before July 2008 who continuously held their license for at least 15 years would be excused from taking continuing education classes.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who introduced the legislation back in February, called it a “common sense” law that came about from communications with stakeholders, including the New York State Association of Realtors.

NYSAR is a nonprofit that offers continuing education and other services to thousands of its members. NYSAR listed Hoylman’s bill as one of its legislative priorities for the year. It did not respond to requests for comment and does not list its membership fees online.

The new law also requires two-and-a-half hours of “ethical business practices” and one hour dedicated to legal updates. That’s in addition to the previously mandated three hours of classes related to fair housing and/or discrimination and an hour related to law of agency.

For license holders who never benefited from the exemption clause, the change is a nonevent. But for those who were exempt, the new law is being met with a mixed reaction.

John Burger of Brown Harris Stevens called the move logical “given the change in rental laws, disclosure laws and internet practices.”

Meanwhile, Compass’ Adelaide Polsinelli said she found the assumption that “senior level brokers are still in need of continuing education” to be an “interesting” one.

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“If a broker is still in business after all these years, they most likely know what they are doing,” she wrote in an email. She pointed to the new ethics course requirement in particular, and expressed doubt that it would have an impact on seasoned brokers’ business conduct.

“Clearly the thought of sitting somewhere for 22-and-half hours and not working is probably not on the top of everybody’s wishlist,” said Bob Knakal, JLL’s chairman of investment sales. He said he’s been teaching continuing education classes for two decades but hasn’t been a student himself for years: “It will be interesting to be sitting on the other side of the classroom.”

Knakal said he thinks continuing education should be structured “a little bit different for more senior people in the industry.”

The Real Estate Board of New York president Jim Whelan echoed the sentiment.

“We think these requirements should be better tailored for the most experienced members of the real estate industry to ensure they only receive the appropriate training,” he said in a statement. But Whelan noted that the law’s addition of ethics and legal training was “a good step.”

David Schechtman of Meridian Capital Group, who’s also a lawyer, said he takes “oodles and oodles” of continuing education classes — as well as teaching — and called himself a proponent.

“Even if this seems like a draconian amount of time required, given the radically shifting regulatory landscape, I don’t find it offensive. I find it burdensome,” he joked. “But the laws are changing quicker than deals are happening.”

“Knowledge is power and power is money,” he said.

Write to Erin Hudson at