BARRISTER'S BRIEFING: What Personal Assistants Can and Cannot Do
Leon Cameron, Esq. | April 2017
Personal assistants, although typically unlicensed, can provide an enormous benefit to Brokers and Office Managers in performing necessary administrative tasks. There are instances in which a personal assistant may also be licensed as either a Salesperson or Associate Broker, and work in that capacity as well. However, those types of rare instances invoke tax and financial considerations of “independent contractor” versus “employee” classification—a topic to be explored for another time.
For the purposes of this article, “personal assistant” will refer to unlicensed individuals. The parameters as to what these individuals can and cannot do are sometimes forgotten, particularly in the fast-paced spring market.
A personal assistant cannot perform any function set forth in New York State Real Property Law, Article 12A, §440. Therefore, a personal assistant may not act as if he or she is a licensee. Specifically, personal assistants are prohibited from doing the following:
• Host an open house (a personal assistant may be present along with the listing agent, but may not answer questions related to the property itself);
• Show property;
• Give explanations or interpretations to customers or clients of the brokerage for documents such as listings, representation agreements, or other documents related to a transaction;
• Agree to a commission (or commission split) with any individual or entity; and
• Conduct solicitation activities on behalf of the broker, seeking prospective buyers and/or sellers.
At this point, with so many restrictions on the activities of a personal assistant, you are likely asking what if anything, a personal assistant can legally do. The following list encompasses most real estate transactions. Personal assistants are permitted to:
• Answer the phone, take messages, and refer appointment requests to licensees;
• Secure status reports on loan progress;
• Put together a closing documents package;
• Write advertisements, and prepare promotion material, subject to broker approval;
• Submit listings, once approved, to a multiple listing service;
• Calculate commission checks, both in-house, and to be paid to a cooperating broker;
• Place or remove signage from property;
• Order home repairs, upon the consent of the homeowner and the broker;
• Secure public documents necessary for closing from courts and other governmental entities;
• Gather information for a licensee to conduct a comparative market analysis;
• Assemble information necessary for an appraisal;
• Provide status reports on licensee’s individual licenses, and their expiration dates; and
• Perform clerical duties, such as filing and typing letters.
The Licensed Broker is totally responsible for the control and supervision of all activities performed in the name of their real estate business. This extends to personal assistants. As such, the broker is required to provide such necessary training and explanatory materials to personal assistants, as may be necessary to lawfully carry out those activities they are permitted to perform. If a personal assistant crosses the line and performs licensed activities, the broker is held responsible. Likewise, any other licensee (Associate Broker or Salesperson) that permits a personal assistant to perform licensed activity in their place and stead, may be jeopardizing their license status.
Editor’s Note: The foregoing is for information purposes only and does not confer an attorney/client relationship. For a legal opinion or advice specific to your situation, please consult with a private attorney at law.