BARRISTER'S BRIEFING: ‘The Times They are a Changin’

Brian Levine | November 2019

As we all know, time waits for no one and as the clock continues to tick, the lives we lead are subject to change. This includes everyone who holds a real estate license. As time marches on, we all have to adjust, change and grow.

Change in NAR Code of Ethics Training Requirement

On Nov. 11, 2019, the NAR Board of Directors approved a change to the NAR’s Code of Ethics training requirement. Prior to this change, all NAR member were required to take 2.5 hours of ethics during a two-year cycle period. This new change made the renewal cycle a three-year cycle. This NAR cycle runs from January 1st until December 31st and it runs irrespective of your state licensing renewal date. The current cycle (Cycle 6) runs from January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2021; meaning that all agents must complete 2.5 hours of ethics training within the three-year cycle ending on Dec. 31, 2021, regardless of whether your State license renews during this period.

Change to New York State Real Estate Law

Recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law the latest amendment to the real property law. Its result is a sweeping change that all Realtors need to take note of and adjust to in order not be taken by surprise and risk not having your real estate license renewed.

The Old Law

New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (NYCRR), Title 19, Chapter V, Subchapter D, Part 177, Section 177.1(a) originally stated:

“Renewals. No renewal license shall be issued to any real estate broker or salesperson for any license period commencing on or after 11/1/95 unless such licensee shall provide evidence of completion of 22 ½ hours of approved continuing education within the two-year period immediately preceding such renewal. However, such continuing education requirement shall not apply to any licensed real estate broker who is engaged full-time in the real estate business and who has been licensed prior to July 1, 2008 for at least 15 consecutive years immediately preceding such renewal.”

Pursuant to this regulation, the die was cast and, unless you were “grandfathered”, agents were now required to complete 22.5 hours in order to renew their license. Agents grumbled. Agents scrambled. Agents adjusted with the times.

The Amendment

Years later, the continuing education requirement was again modified and agents had to adjust. As of Jan. 1, 2007, as a part of the 22.5 hours of approved continuing education, 3.0 hours of fair housing and/or discrimination in the sale or rental of real property or an interest in real property, as well as at least 1.0 hour of agency law (for salespersons within their first licensing term, they must complete 2.0 hours of agency) was required. However, fortunately for long-time licensed “grandfathered” agents, this requirement did not apply to those that were exempt under the original regulation.

Once again, agents grumbled. Agents scrambled… and agents adjusted to the new change.

The Latest Amendment

Just last week, Gov. Cuomo signed into law a further modification of the real property law that will take effect on July 1, 2021. The newest modifications require at least 2.5 hours of ethical business practices and at least 1.0 hour pertaining to recent legal matters governing the practice of real estate brokers and salespersons in New York. However, the most drastic change was that the “grandfather” clause, which exempted licensees who were licensed prior to July 1, 2008 for 15 consecutive years, was eliminated.

This new regulation may have come as a shock to those licensees who had previously held their heads up proudly as “seasoned” agents and who had comfortably renewed their licenses without the continuing education requirement, stating that their years of experience was sufficient to satisfy the requirement of continuing education. However, the legislature argued that, regardless of a licensee’s years of experience, all licensees should be required to keep abreast of changes that were occurring in their industry as well as refresh, renew and continue to increase their knowledge as it relates to real estate. The new regulation is a reflection of that principle.

Your Continuing Education Requirements

With the new law taking effect in July 1, 2021, the new continuing education requirements will be as follows:

State Licensing Requirement

Effective 7/1/21, all licensed real estate agents (there is no “grandfathering”) are required to take 22.5 hours of continuing education within the two-year period immediately preceding their license renewal. Of those 22.5 hours, the following are required (at a minimum):

• 3 hours of instruction pertaining to fair housing and/or discrimination in the sale or rental of real property or an interest in real property;

• 1.0-hour agency law (unless newly licensed, then 2 hours agency is required);

Plus

• 2.5 hours of instruction pertaining to ethical business practices;

• 1.0 hour of instruction pertaining to recent legal matters governing the practice of real estate brokers and salespersons in New York (which may include statutes, laws, regulations, rules, codes, department of state opinions and decisions, and court decisions).

NAR Requirement

• -2.5 hours of Code of Ethics training within the NAR mandated three-year cycle.
-Cycle 6: 1/1/19 – 12/31/21
-Cycle 7: 1/1/22 – 12/31/24
-Cycle 8: 1/1/25 – 12/31/27

Conclusion

All agents must grow and adapt to the changing landscape. Our industry requires us to continue to learn and hone our skills. We are required to act ethically, with a strong moral compass, and knowledge of the real estate agency rules and real estate laws that benefit and protect our clients, as well as ourselves. By holding ourselves to a higher standard, we raise the bar of professionalism, establish a greater level of competency and create stronger confidence with our clients and the public. “The times they are a changing…” and it’s good for our industry.

Brian Levine
Brian S. Levine, Esq. is In-House Counsel/Director of Legal Services & Professional Standards Administrator for the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.