California property management audits – do you need an attorney to represent you?
One question we get a lot is “if I get a DRE audit letter requesting an audit of my property management company do I need to hire a real estate law firm, or does that MAKE ME LOOK GUILTY?
The short answer is NO, you do not “look guilty” just because you hire a property management law firm to help you as you go through a California Bureau of Real Estate Audit. This blog discusses this interesting question.
Getting the Property Management Audit Demand Letter
So here’s the situation, say you are a California property management company (residential or commercial, apartment buildings etc.), and you get a letter from a DRE investigator (now “BRE”) demanding that you submit your company to an audit. As we have discussed in many other blogs, podcasts, and videos, these audits could be RANDOM or driven by a COMPLAINT.
A fair number of property managers are not certain whether or not they are 100% in compliance, and so sometimes they turn to our firm seeking legal representation, and sometimes, a broker property management self-audit.
I often get the question “do i look guilty if I hire a real estate lawyer” in this situation? My answer, no, and you shouldn’t look guilty when charged with a crime (such as embezzlement, grand theft, etc.) and you hire a lawyer to help you, or if you hire a lawyer to help you with an IRS audit. I often ask people “what do you think Donald Trump would do if a real estate regulator wanted to audit his books?” While I cannot say for sure what he would do, I would think he would hire legal representatives to assist him.
You don’t need a lawyer to represent you in a property management audit
It’s 100% true – you don’t need a lawyer to represent you in a DRE or BRE audit/investigation. You might even hear this from representatives of the California Bureau of Real Estate (“BRE”) or the Arizona DRE (we represent brokers on both states). While this is technically true, I am going to give you my top reasons why you SHOULD consider hiring a real estate attorney to help you when you are dealing with a property management audit in California EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT GUILTY OF ANY WRONGDOING.
Top Seven reasons to hire a real estate law firm to help you with a property management audit
1. Your real estate license is your livelihood, and when it comes to your ability to earn a living, this is something you need to take very serious. Our firm can help you prepare to respond in the best light possible to the requests set forth in the audit demand letter.
2. Sometimes the property manager will know “who” filed the complaint (when it is a complaint-driven audit), and preparing your version of the story is important, and getting the documentation in order to best prepare your case. The time to review the transaction with your attorney can be very important.
3. You don’t know what you don’t know. Sometimes there are hidden compliance issues that you might not be aware of. At times, we can point out, or make a few suggestions that would help you from a legal compliance standpoint, in preparing for the audit.
4. The auditor makes some people nervous, and makes some people defensive. When this happens, people tend NOT to hear everything that is being said, and may not be taking diligent notes of what’s being requested (auditor’s often request information and we can help facilitate getting everything the auditor is requesting, while you continue to run your practice.
5. Auditors will often have you “initial” documents, and may ask you to sign a final “compliance findings” statement (basically acknowledging the auditors findings). It might makes sense to have documents reviewed by a real estate lawyer before you put your initials to them.
6. In some cases, the property management audit will lead to a cite and fine real estate compliance case, or an accusation (in an accusation, your license may be on the line and you could be subject to a license revocation or suspension administrative hearing in front of the OAH. In either event, it makes sense to have a real estate law firm on your side that is already familiar with your organization, and familiar with the case. If it goes to an accusation, your law firm already understands the case and is in a good position to help you negotiate a favorable settlement without having to go to a hearing.
If you can get your case settled with a “cite and fine” you can often avoid getting an embarrassing blemish on your public record on the DRE public records database. This will cost you clients and future business in most cases as accusations are posted on the BRE database with a link to the accusation and settlement.
7. You are entitled to due process in real estate cases. Part of due process means you have a right to have legal counsel represent you throughout the process.
These are some of the most common reasons property managers and other real estate brokers and salespeople in California hire our law firm when they get a audit demand letter.
For a free 15 minute consultation contact our real estate law firm
To discuss your audit demand letter (whether it is a mortgage loan company, residential or commercial real estate company, or property management company) and our strategy to help you in your case contact us at (877) 276-5084. You can also fill out the contact form below to have one of our California Property Management Lawyers contact you. We have been through many loan audits and have helped numerous real estate brokers with accusations, cite and fine cases, real estate licensing issues, accusations and broker arbitration and litigation. When it comes to real estate law, we believe we are the best firm for you to choose to represent you. Contact us to discuss your case.
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