New York Executive Law Section 90 states: “There shall be in the state government a department of state. The head of the department shall be the secretary of state who shall be appointed by the governor by and with the advice of the senate…”
Included among the Secretary’s responsibilities is the regulation of real estate agents.
While the DOS was established in 1778, it wasn’t until 1926, during the governorship of Al Smith that the Office of Secretary became an appointive position. That appointment went to Robert Moses. It wasn’t until 1934 that New York State required real estate agents to be licensed.
Article 12-A of New York State’s Real Property Law governs the activities of real estate agents. The DOS has the authority to establish the requirements to receive a license. It may also suspend and revoke licenses as well as impose financial penalties against licensed individuals. It does not have the authority to prosecute for criminal violations of the License Law. That remains the prerogative of the Attorney General of the State of New York. On February 9, 1972, the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, ruled in the case, Gold v. Lomenzo, that the Legislature intended for the DOS to regulate real estate agents, including invoking penalties for license law violations.
At present, among the requirements for a salesperson’s license are, a candidate must be at least eighteen years of age, complete a seventy-five hour course approved by the DOS at a school with instructors approved by the DOS, pass state approved school and state exams, and have a sponsoring broker.
To achieve an associate broker or broker’s license, the licensed salesperson must be at least twenty years of age, have at least two years experience working under the supervision of a broker, complete another forty-five hour course approved by the DOS at a school with instructors approved by the DOS and pass school and state exams.
Licenses must be renewed every two years, which requires a candidate to complete at least twenty-two and a half hours of continuing education in subject matter approved by the DOS and at a school with instructors approved by the DOS. The subject matter must include at least three hours devoted to Fair Housing, and one hour or two hours of Agency depending upon whether the candidate has taken Agency before as a part of continuing education. Currently, those who received their associate broker or broker licenses before 2008 are exempt from having to complete any continuing education courses for license renewal. On October 23, 2019, Governor Cuomo signed into law a New York State Association of Realtors (NYSAR) supported-amendment to the Real Property Law. The amendment eliminates the exemption from continuing education for those licensees who are “grandfathered” under the current law.
The twenty-two and a half hours of continuing education courses must include at least two and one half hours pertaining to ethical business practices, and at least one hour pertaining to legal matters, such as statutes, laws, regulations, rules, codes, department of state opinions and decisions, and court decisions as well as the three hours of Fair Housing and the one or two hours of agency presently required. These changes will take effect July 1, 2021.
At NYSAR’s 2019 mid-winter business meeting, the Education Management Committee formed a task force to explore redefining broker qualifying requirements. The task force recommended increasing the broker course requirement from forty-five to seventy-five hours, and the experience requirement from two to five years.
The governor has proposed additional requirements for real estate agents and DOS Certified instructors with respect to Fair Housing which have not yet been formalized.