Real Estate License Attorneys

Qualified and Effective License Defense Before the
Bureau of Real Estate

Protecting and Supporting Your Real Estate Practice with a Real Estate License Attorney

The California Bureau of Real Estate (BRE) is responsible for the licensing and oversight of property managers, real estate salespersons, and brokers. The BRE has the power to initiate a variety of disciplinary actions, including the filing of an Accusation to revoke or suspend a license, the filing of a Statement of Issues denying a license application, the filing of Desist and Refrain Orders against both licensed and unlicensed individuals, and the processing of Petitions for Reinstatement or the removal of license restrictions.

The Law Office of Gould & Hahn is experienced in defending licensees in all aspects of BRE disciplinary actions, as well as in responding to audits of trust accounts, and we are prepared to protect your license or assist in processing your license application thoroughly and efficiently. Our office has been successfully assisting individuals with BRE licensing matters since 1995 and is qualified and able to protect your license and livelihood. If your license becomes the subject of a disciplinary action or you are the subject of a BRE audit, contact] the experienced legal professionals at Gould & Hahn to discuss how we can assist you.

 

Accusation to Revoke or Suspend a License

If the Bureau of Real Estate believes you have violated the laws relating to the real estate profession, the BRE will initiate a disciplinary action by filing an Accusation to revoke your license and permanently prohibit you from conducting real estate transactions. The Accusation will contain a list of unproven charges of wrongdoing demonstrating how you have violated the law. Except in very specific circumstances, all BRE licensees are entitled to an administrative hearing in which the BRE must prove the allegations contained in the Accusation. If you are served with an Accusation or believe you may be, contact Gould & Hahn immediately, as you have only 15 days to respond to the BRE and protect your right to defend against the charges. The attorneys that file the Accusations for the BRE specialize in real estate law and are hired for the specific purpose of disciplining or revoking real estate licenses. If you receive an Accusation, it is absolutely critical that you immediately retain qualified legal counsel that is experienced in defending licensees before the BRE.

Accusations to revoke or suspend a license arise out of a variety of circumstances. Some common issues include:

  • Salespersons acting outside the scope of their licensed capacity
  • Insufficient broker supervision
  • BRE audits that reveal recordkeeping errors
  • Trust fund handling violations
  • Violations associated with short sale transactions
  • Loan modification activity
  • Criminal convictions and/or failure to disclose the conviction

Gould & Hahn will work closely with you to prepare your defense to the Bureau’s allegations. Our staff will request all of the BRE’s documents and will assist you in compiling your evidence and preparing your witnesses that rebut the allegations. The attorneys at Gould & Hahn are both compassionate and well grounded in the specialized requirements of agency law. Gould & Hahn will provide you with a realistic assessment of your case at every step of the process. Gould & Hahn is experienced in negotiating a settlement of the Accusation before hearing in an effort to avoid the uncertainty and financial and emotional expense of a contested administrative hearing. If the case cannot be settled, Gould & Hahn has experienced litigators who will vigorously and aggressively defend you at the administrative hearing.

Many licensees are unaware that as brokers, they may be held responsible for accounting violations and other violations committed by their salespersons, even when the conduct violates the broker’s policy and procedures and even when the broker has no knowledge of such conduct. If you are a broker who is aware that one of your salespersons is the subject of an investigation or subject to an Accusation filed by the BRE, it is important that you contact an experienced real estate licensing law attorney to learn of your rights and possible liabilities.

For more information on how the BRE initiates and prosecutes disciplinary action against a licensee, click on the flow chart depicted in the Map of the Enforcement Process section of our website. This chart provides an accurate map of how each board and agency investigates and prosecutes a complaint against one of its licensees.

 

License Application Denial

When the Bureau of Real Estate believes an individual is not qualified to be licensed, the BRE will deny the application. When the applicant appeals, the BRE will initiate a proceeding by filing a Statement of Issues. The filing of a Statement of Issues often results in a further delay in an already lengthy application process. If you receive a Statement of Issues, you have only 15 days to respond. If you do not respond within the 15-day period, you will lose your right to appeal the denial.

Like the Accusation process, the applicant is entitled to an administrative hearing on the issue of whether the Bureau has sufficient basis to deny the application. License applications are denied for many reasons, but common grounds often include:

  • Criminal conviction and/or failure to disclose a criminal conviction in the license application
  • Unlicensed activity
  • Prior discipline by another licensing agency

The experienced attorneys and legal professionals at Gould & Hahn are familiar with the license application process, including what information should be presented to the BRE in support of the license application. They will discuss the potential settlement outcomes with you that may allow the case to be resolved quickly, allowing you to begin working and utilizing your license.

 

Filing for an Unrestricted License and Reinstatement

A restricted real estate license allows a licensee to continue to engage in the business of real estate while subject to certain additional terms and conditions, the most important being the Bureau’s ability to revoke the license without the opportunity for a hearing if the licensee violates a term or condition of the restricted license or is convicted of a crime. Gould & Hahn assists individuals with restricted licenses in preparing a Petition to remove restrictions and obtain an unrestricted license. If you or your company is working pursuant to a restricted license, contact the legal professionals at Gould & Hahn to discuss how we can assist you in obtaining an unrestricted license free of unnecessary and inappropriate terms and conditions.

 

License Reinstatement

Formerly licensed real estate agents who have surrendered their license or had their license revoked following a disciplinary action may, after a specified waiting period, file a Petition for Reinstatement with the BRE or file a new license application. If you are interested in reinstating your license, contact the legal professionals at Gould & Hahn to discuss how you can best position yourself for reinstatement and how we can assist you in preparing and filing your Petition.

 

Desist and Refrain Orders

In the event that the BRE believes an unlicensed individual is engaging in the business of real estate or a licensee is working outside the appropriate scope of his or her license, the BRE may issue a Desist and Refrain Order. A Desist and Refrain Order requires the licensee to immediately stop the action named in the Order. In some cases, a Desist and Refrain Order amounts to the constructive revocation of a license. If you are served with such an Order, you have legal recourse to overturn the Order and you should contact Gould & Hahn immediately to discuss your options and how we may best assist you.

Over twenty years guiding Clients out of the problem and into the solution

Qualified and Effective License Defense Before the California
Department of Insurance

Protecting Your Insurance License Against Disciplinary Action and Claims of Misconduct

The California Department of Insurance (CDI) governs and regulates insurance agents and brokers in accordance with the California Code of Insurance and the California Code of Regulations. The CDI’s job is not, as is often thought, to assist brokers and agents, but rather to protect the public from unscrupulous or incompetent insurance licensees. If the CDI receives a complaint of wrongdoing, it will open an investigation that can ultimately lead to the immediate revocation of your license or the filing of an Accusation.

If the CDI has initiated an investigation or disciplinary proceeding against you, retaining experienced and skilled legal counsel such as Gould & Hahn will make a vital difference in the outcome of your case. Gould & Hahn has assisted insurance agents and brokers in protecting their professional livelihoods since 1995. Contact us now to learn how we can put our experience to use for you.

 

Summary Revocation of a License

Unlike other California licensing agencies, the Department of Insurance has the authority to summarily revoke, meaning immediately revoke a license without a hearing if the licensee has been convicted of a felony, a misdemeanor violation of insurance law, or has had a previous license revoked or denied within the past five years. The CDI interprets this authority in the broadest possible way and it is not uncommon for licensees to learn, without any previous notice, that their license has been revoked or summarily suspended after entering into a Settlement Agreement with FINRA or learning that criminal charges have been filed. If you have received a Summary Suspension or Revocation of your license, contact Gould & Hahn immediately. Gould & Hahn has successfully challenged such orders and had the license reinstated pending a fair hearing on the charges.

 

Written Consent Pursuant to USC Section 1033

The CDI has the power to not only revoke your license, but also to prohibit any company or person licensed by the CDI from employing you. If you lose your license, you may also lose your ability to work in the insurance industry in any capacity. Insurance licensees who have lost their licenses for certain offenses are designated as a “prohibited person”, and licensees are not permitted to employ a prohibited person until such time as the prohibited person obtains a Written Consent pursuant to USC §1033. For that reason, if you receive an Accusation seeking the revocation of your license and you want to remain working in the insurance industry, you need to obtain legal representation from attorneys who are familiar with the nuances and procedures of insurance licensing law.

 

Investigation of a Complaint

The sequence of events that arise from the filing of a complaint with the CDI is illustrated in detail in our chart of the Enforcement Process. This chart can be very useful for understanding the procedures by which a complaint moves through the disciplinary process from the investigation, to an Accusation, to settlement or administrative hearing.

The CDI is tasked by the Legislature to respond to all complaints received in its offices. The most common sources of complaints are unhappy clients, FINRA, other licensees, and the criminal courts. Allegations in these complaints can include:

  • misrepresentations to clients;
  • sale of inappropriate annuities;
  • the filing of felony criminal charges, a misdemeanor or felony conviction, or failure to disclose a criminal conviction;
  • disassociation from FINRA;
  • substance abuse or chemical dependency;
  • mishandling of premium payments;
  • trust account violations.

Your first notification of a CDI investigation may be a telephone call or written request for an interview by a CDI investigator. It is important to know that the CDI may use information or details that you provide during an investigative interview to support formal disciplinary action against you. It is important that you not speak to an investigator, therefore, before seeking legal representation. By consulting with an experienced licensing defense firm such as Gould & Hahn, you can be proactive and minimize, as much as possible, the consequences of the complaint and protect your ability to continue working as a CDI licensee.

Following its investigation, the CDI will pursue one of the following options:

  • close the complaint as lacking sufficient evidence;
  • issue a citation and fine for the violation of the Insurance Code identified;
  • File a Notice of Summary Suspension or Revocation; or
  • File an Accusation to revoke, suspend, or otherwise discipline your license.

 

Receiving an Accusation

If the CDI believes you have violated the laws relating to the insurance profession, it will file an Accusation to revoke your license. Once the CDI’s attorney has filed the Accusation, the document, with all of the unproven allegations, is made available to the public, all insurers, and all State and Federal agencies via the CDI’s website. The filing of an Accusation may result in the termination of your ability to sell for certain insurers pending final resolution of the CDI disciplinary action.

Once the Accusation is filed, there is an extremely limited window of time during which you must respond in order to preserve your right to defend yourself. You will have only 15 days to file a Notice of Defense, the form that advises the CDI you request a hearing and intend to defend against the charges in the Accusation. If you fail to file the Notice of Defense within 15 days, the CDI will revoke your license without providing you with an opportunity to defend against the charges and you will no longer be able to transact insurance. For these reasons, it is critical that you retain experienced counsel immediately upon receiving an Accusation.

The Accusation phase of the disciplinary process usually takes several months. During this period, Gould & Hahn will negotiate a resolution of your case in an effort to avoid the uncertainty and the emotional and financial expense of a contested administrative hearing. The CDI has the authority to settle your case before hearing and a majority of cases are resolved during the settlement process. Gould & Hahn will work closely with you to present the facts of your case that justify your right to a fair settlement.

 

Proceeding to an Administrative Hearing

Under certain circumstances, the CDI will not offer settlement terms other than revocation of the license. At this point the licensee must decide whether to proceed to hearing or surrender his or her license.

Determining whether to proceed to an administrative hearing is a significant decision that you must carefully consider in consultation with your experienced licensing attorney. An administrative hearing is held before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ does not, however, have final authority in administrative law. Final authority rests solely with the CDI. The ALJ issues a Proposed Decision and forwards it to the CDI for its consideration. The Proposed Decision is not binding on the CDI, meaning, you could prevail at the hearing, and the CDI could reject the ALJ’s Decision and issue its own decision disciplining your license. When evaluating whether to proceed to a hearing it is essential that you consult with your attorney and understand the nature of a Proposed Decision and your options for appeal in the event that the CDI rejects the ALJ’s Proposed Decision.

The attorneys and staff at Gould & Hahn have represented insurance agents and brokers since 1995 and have become familiar with nearly every circumstance and outcome in the administrative hearing process. Gould & Hahn has a proven record of defending and negotiating secure settlement agreements for insurance licensees, and a history of successful representation at hearing.

 

License Reinstatement

Formerly licensed insurance agents and brokers who have surrendered their license or had their license revoked following a disciplinary action may, after obtaining a Written Consent Pursuant to USC §1033 where required, file a Petition for Reinstatement. If you are interested in reinstating your license, contact the legal professionals at Gould & Hahn to discuss how you can best position yourself for reinstatement and how we can assist you in preparing and filing your Petition.

Representation focused on your particular needs

Qualified and Effective License Defense Before the Contractors
State License Board

Protecting Your License and Livelihood from CSLB Disciplinary Action

The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is tasked with licensing and disciplining all building and home improvement contractors within the State of California. Under the Board’s authority, licensed contractors are subject to some of the most intense scrutiny of any professional licensee. The purpose of the CSLB is to protect the public from unscrupulous or incompetent contractors and the agency fulfills this goal by investigating public complaints and making disciplinary actions available to the public on the CSLB website.

It is a common misconception that the function of the CSLB is to help contractors. Instead, the purpose of the CSLB is to protect the public. When the CSLB investigates a contractor, an adversarial relationship is created in which the contractor must actively defend his or her conduct before the Board investigator or attorney. If you believe a complaint has been or may be filed, it is important that you obtain experienced and effective legal advice from Gould & Hahn. The best time to resolve a complaint with a customer is before it is filed. The attorneys at Gould & Hahn are experienced in proactively resolving customer disputes before CSLB issues arise.

 

Customer Complaints and CSLB Investigations

While anyone may file a complaint against a contractor, the most common sources include homeowners, companies within the construction industry, subcontractors, and competitors. Because of the numerous complaints received, the CSLB employs a large network of investigators who are responsible for thoroughly investigating complaints. A complaint may be filed with the CSLB up to four years from the date of the alleged violation. This lengthy period places the contractor at a severe disadvantage, as the original work may have been altered, leaving the contractor with little or no visual record of his or her original work.

The CSLB has the authority to resolve a complaint investigation by closing the complaint with no findings against the contractor, by issuing a citation and fine, or by filing an Accusation to revoke the contractor’s license. The citations and Accusations become a part of the contractor’s CSLB public file and are published on the Board’s website and available for review by the public, future customers, and competitors. The citation and/or Accusation contain all of the unproven allegations against the contractor. These public documents can have a devastating effect on a contractor’s business. At Gould & Hahn, we understand the profound importance of a contractor’s reputation and the severely negative effects a wrongfully issued citation or Accusation may have on your business.

The sequence of events that arise from the filing of a complaint with the CSLB is illustrated in detail in our chart of the Enforcement Process. This chart can be very useful for understanding the procedures by which a complaint moves through the disciplinary process – from investigation, to a citation or Accusation, to settlement, or an administrative hearing.

 

Online Public Disciplinary Records

Contractors, unlike many other licensed professionals, are often in direct competition with other contractors when bidding on a job. It is common practice for homeowners and future clients to review all of the information about a contractor online in the CSLB’s public record system, to determine the contractor’s license status and disciplinary history. The presence of a citation or Accusation history can result in the loss of potential business opportunities. If your license is under CSLB investigation, contact the experienced legal professionals at Gould & Hahn as soon as possible. We have represented contractors in a variety of situations since 1995 including citation appeals, license revocation actions, and license application denials, and we are prepared to put our experience to work for you. Contact us to discuss how we can most efficiently and effectively help you protect your license and reputation.

 

Board Issued Citations

When CSLB investigators believe a contactor has violated a law or regulation, the CSLB may issue a citation. Citations become a part of a contractor’s public file and include, but are not limited to, allegations of:

  • Contract form violations;
  • Workers’ compensation violations;
  • Aiding and abetting an unlicensed contractor;
  • Down payment violations;
  • Failure to complete the project for the contract price; and/or
  • Departure from trade standards.

In addition to damaging a contractor’s reputation, citations include costly monetary penalties. The Board may also order the contractor to pay substantial restitution costs to the customer, which in some cases can total thousands of dollars. Licensed contractors have the right to appeal CSLB citations and proceed to a hearing before an administrative law judge where they can provide their own evidence disputing the claim.

Gould & Hahn can assist you in filing your appeal and negotiating a resolution of the citation prior to hearing, and, if necessary, represent you in an administrative hearing. Gould & Hahn has the experience and determination to achieve the best possible outcome for your individual circumstances.

 

Accusation to Revoke or Suspend a License

If the CSLB concludes that a contractor has violated the law, does substandard work, or otherwise represents a threat to the public, it will file an Accusation to suspend or revoke the contractor’s license. If you receive an Accusation from the CSLB, it is important that you immediately obtain legal representation because you have only 15 days to file a Notice of Defense with the CSLB’s attorney indicating your intention to appeal and request a hearing. Failure to file the Notice of Defense could result in the loss of your license without any further notice. The attorneys that file the Accusations for the CSLB specialize in contracting law and are retained for the specific purpose of disciplining or revoking contractor licenses. If you receive an Accusation, it is absolutely critical that you immediately retain qualified legal counsel that is experienced in defending licensees before the CSLB. Contact Gould & Hahn for a free consultation to discuss your situation, learn what your rights are, and how we would defend your license.

Common allegations that lead to the filing of an Accusation include:

  • Abandonment;
  • Departure from trade standards;
  • Breach of contract;
  • Fraud or misrepresentation; and/or
  • Criminal convictions.

If the contractor responds to the Accusation within 15 days, he or she is entitled to an administrative hearing. Once the CSLB receives the Notice of Defense, it will send a notice to the Office of Administrative Hearings asking that the case be set for hearing. Depending on the projected length of the hearing, the case will be scheduled to be heard one or more months from the receipt of the Notice of Defense.

Along with the Accusation, the contractor will also receive a Request for Discovery. Both the CSLB and contractor are required to submit discovery to the other party. Discovery includes all evidence that is relevant to the charges contained in the Accusation. When you retain Gould & Hahn, your attorney will obtain discovery from the CSLB that includes the CSLB’s investigative and expert reports, witness statements, video and audio documentation, and any other available evidence the CSLB intends to present at the hearing to prove the charges.

During this period, your attorney will have an opportunity to negotiate with the CSLB’s attorney a settlement of your case in an effort to avoid the emotional and financial expense of a contested administrative hearing. The CSLB has the authority to settle cases before hearing and many cases are resolved during the settlement process. Gould & Hahn will work closely with you during this time to develop documents and witnesses that rebut the allegations in the Accusation and present the facts of your case that justify your right to a fair settlement.

If the CSLB refuses to offer settlement terms that are satisfactory, the case will proceed to a hearing. If the case is scheduled for four (4) or more days, the Office of Administrative Hearings will schedule a Settlement Conference and Prehearing Conference to be held a few weeks before the hearing. The Settlement Conference is held before a settlement administrative law judge (ALJ) who will separately review the facts of the case with the CSLB attorney and with your attorney in an effort to reach a settlement of the Accusation. If settlement is reached, it will be entered into the record and the case will be resolved.

If a settlement cannot be reached, the Prehearing Conference will be held before the ALJ presiding over the hearing. The purpose of the Prehearing Conference is to rule on all prehearing motions and to ensure that the parties have complied with the discovery requirements and are ready to proceed to hearing.

 

Proceeding to an Administrative Hearing

The hearing is held before an administrative law judge. There is no jury and the rules of evidence are less restrictive than in criminal or civil proceedings. At the hearing, the CSLB will present its case by submitting its investigative and expert reports and calling its witnesses. Your attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine the Board’s witnesses and object to the submission of irrelevant or improperly obtained evidence. Once the CSLB has completed its case, your attorney will present your evidence and testimony. If the CSLB calls an expert witness, it is critical that you also have an expert who can rebut the CSLB’s expert findings. When all evidence and testimony has been submitted into the record, the hearing is closed.

The ALJ has thirty (30) days to prepare a Proposed Decision and submit it to the CSLB for its consideration. The CSLB has one hundred (100) days to consider the Proposed Decision and:

  1. Adopt it as the CSLB’s final Decision and Order;
  2. Modify the Proposed Decision; or,
  3. Reject the Proposed Decision and write its own Decision.

If the CSLB fails to act within 100 days, the Proposed Decision is deemed adopted as the final Decision.

  • Dismissal of the Accusation
  • Issuance of a Letter of Public Reproval
  • License is revoked, the revocation is stayed, and a probationary period imposed
  • License is revoked, the revocation is stayed, the license is suspended and followed by a period of probation
  • License is revoked

Determining whether to proceed to an administrative hearing is a significant decision that you must carefully consider in consultation with your licensing attorney. In administrative hearings, the ALJ does not have the final authority regarding the outcome of the case. Final authority rests solely with the CSLB. The ALJ will issue a Proposed Decision. This Proposed Decision is not binding on the Board, meaning, you could prevail at the hearing, and the CSLB could reject the ALJ’s Proposed Decision and issue its own decision disciplining your license. When evaluating whether to proceed to a hearing, it is essential that you consult with your attorney and understand the nature of a Proposed Decision and your options for appeal in the event that the Board rejects the administrative law judge’s Proposed Decision.

The CSLB has some of the most far-reaching authority of any licensing agency. It has the power to not only revoke your license, but also to prohibit any licensed contractor from employing you in any capacity. If you lose your license, you may also lose your ability to work in the building industry in any capacity. For that reason, if you receive an Accusation seeking the revocation of your license and you want to remain working in the industry, you need to obtain legal representation from attorneys who are familiar with the nuances and procedures of contractor’s licensing law.

Gould & Hahn has extensive experience aggressively representing contractors and a long history of successful representation at hearing. If you receive an Accusation, call Gould & Hahn immediately for a free consultation.

 

Denial of Application for a License

The CSLB may deny a license application if it believes the applicant has failed to meet the qualifications for licensure. Common grounds for denial include insufficient work experience, criminal convictions, and prior license discipline. If your license application has been denied, you have a limited amount of time to appeal and request an administrative hearing.

The license application process can be extremely stressful and protracted. You have invested a lot of time and money in preparing to be licensed. Gould & Hahn will guide you through this process and provide you with the confidence knowing you are being represented by experienced, compassionate, and knowledgeable counsel.

Free Consultation

If you are facing a disciplinary proceeding and are looking for experienced and effective representation, contact the Law Office of Gould & Hahn at 1-800-428-2207 for a free consultation. We will review your situation, advise you of your rights, and discuss how we would defend you against the Board’s disciplinary action. After speaking with one of our experienced attorneys, you will be able to decide if we are the right firm for you.