Make us your home page
Instagram

Real estate regulation lags as Legislature raids trust fund

State regulators blame the Legislature for a huge backlog in investigations of rogue real estate professionals.

The backlog could be eliminated, officials say, if the Legislature stopped raiding a trust fund that pays for the investigations.

Real estate license fees and fines go into the trust fund. Those revenues would have been sufficient to hire enough investigators to keep pace with the 35 percent increase in the number of complaints against agents, brokers and appraisers since the housing market imploded in 2006.

But last year, the Division of Real Estate spent less on investigations than it did in 2005.

That's because the Legislature diverted trust fund money to help balance the state budget.

"Every time they do a sweep, it's less money on investigations and investigators," said Michael Guju, vice chairman of the Florida Real Estate Commission. He said the backlog needs to be reduced dramatically so more consumers are not harmed.

Getting back the trust fund money, he said, would keep "the respectable real estate profession respectable."

Guju suggested hiring new investigators under a two- or three-year contract until the backlog is whittled away. That way, he said, the division isn't saddled with unneeded employees once the situation returns to normal.

"We need to show we're serious about fraud," Guju said. "We need to show we're serious about enforcing the laws."

Right now, according to a Times analysis printed last month, most investigations take months, if not years, to get resolved. The lag allows many agents, brokers and appraisers to commit additional misdeeds while initial complaints are being investigated.

The Legislature has taken $7.6 million from the Division of Real Estate trust fund since 2008. The practice is neither new nor improper.

Officials have pleaded with legislators in recent years, but the efforts have failed, said Real Estate Commission member Roger Enzor. "We've made that argument and don't have a lot of choices."

State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, a member of the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, said he does not want unethical real estate professionals harming the public and understands regulators' frustrations.

"I agree with them," Fasano said.

But he said the Legislature has to balance the budget and has taken several hundred million dollars from other trust funds, like education and environment.

Currently, the Division of Real Estate has 33 investigators and has gained five full-time investigators since 2008.

The $7.6 million taken by the Legislature is part of more than $34 million collected by the Division of Real Estate since 2008 from license fees and fines paid by the 300,000 industry workers.

Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/markapuente.

Real estate regulation lags as Legislature raids trust fund 03/04/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 4, 2011 10:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Unexpected weak quarter at MarineMax slashes boating retailer shares by 20 percent

    Business

    CLEARWATER — Just then you thought it was safe to go back into the water, a boating business leader issued a small craft warning.

    Bill McGill Jr., CEO of Clearwater's MarineMax, the country's biggest recreational boat retailer. [Courtesy of MarineMax]
  2. CapTrust moving headquarters to downtown Park Tower

    Corporate

    TAMPA — CAPTRUST Advisors, a Raleigh, N.C.-based investment consulting firm, is moving its Tampa offices into Park Tower. CapTrust's new space will be 10,500 square feet — the entirety of the 18th floor of the downtown building, which is scheduled to undergo a multi-million-dollar renovation by 2018.

    CAPTRUST Advisors' Tampa location is moving into Park Tower. Pictured is the current CapTrust location at 102 W. Whiting St. | [Times file photo]
  3. Good news: Tampa Bay no longer a major foreclosure capital of the country

    Real Estate

    Once in the top five nationally for foreclosure filings, the Tampa Bay area no longer makes even the top 25.

    A few short years ago, Tampa Bay was a national hub for foreclosures. Not any more. [Getty Images/iStockphoto]
  4. Tampa-based start-up takes on Airbnb by promoting inclusion, diversity

    Tourism

    NEW TAMPA — Last May, Rohan Gilkes attempted to book a property in Idaho on the home-sharing platform Airbnb. After two failed attempts, the African-American entrepreneur asked a white friend to try, and she was "instantly" approved for the same property and dates.

    Rohan Gilkes poses for a portrait at his home and business headquarters in Tampa. 

Innclusive, a Tampa-based start-up, is a home-sharing platform that focuses on providing a positive traveling experience for minorities. Rohan Gilkes, the founder, said he created the organization after several negative experiences with Airbnb.
[CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]

  5. McMansions, state sewage order on tap at St. Petersburg City Council

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council is set Thursday to vote on two major issues: controversial zoning changes aimed at curbing big McMansion-style homes and a consent order with the state that will require St. Petersburg to fix its ailing sewage system.

    Two big, blocky homes on the 2300 block of Dartmouth, Ave N under construction in April. Several new homes under construction.
in St. Petersburg's Historic Kenwood Neighborhood are too big, residents complain. The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday is set to consider ordinances aimed at curbing the construction of big "McMansions." [LARA CERRI   |   Times]