Sunday, July 19, 2009

Reflections on justice

I have had a strange week. In the midst of the week I received a call from a representative of a Home Owners Association here in Tallahassee. The essence of his rant was that I could potentially be named in a law suit. What ??? That sort of pronouncement gets my attention. The essence of his fervor was that a home owner who had bought a listing from a seller I represented was taking down trees. I, of course, wanted to know what that had to do with me.

His psychotic response was that the fellow had declared that I had not provided him with a copy of the covenants and restrictions surrounding this association. Thusly he had failed to seek the permission of the Homes Association. I informed him that I had provided that information to his agent and that it was the fiduciary responsibility of his agent to provide the C&R to him. I then terminated the discussion electing to make a donation to NAMI ( the National Association of Mental Illness ) rather than donating my time directly to him, a compelling representative of the cause.

I concluded my week by answering a summons to jury duty. It is not a good idea to ignore such. It is always a time consuming and mildly frustrating investiture of time. I was in a pool of approximately 200. My name was called to go to a particular court room and I was invited into a jury box. There were approximately 20-25 of us in the box. That number would be winnowed down to 6 to hear a particular case.

The judge presiding over this case was Circuit Court judge Kevin Davey. He used to live right across the corner of the golf course from me. I have always held a huge amount of admiration and respect for this man and his family. His daughter, Erica, played softball for me at the age of 9. She passed away about 13 years ago from osteomyeloma. I can still see in my mind's eye the look of determination on her steely little face as she played softball. She played with absolute pain in every movement. Yet she ran and squealed and laughed and had a wonderful time as 9 year olds are supposed to do. She looms in my mind as a great example of what it takes to be a champion. She never seemed to give up in the face of long, long odds. Her family took every step with her and they set a wonderful example of support. She is gone on to laugh and play with the angels in heaven. The family is left behind to deal with this onerous world that we continue on in. Where is the justice in that? Yet, this man continues to stand watch over the process of justice.

Well, I digress. The court was Civil Court. There sitting in the defendant's chair was another real estate broker, a very successful one. In the plaintiff's chair was a builder, developer of numerous subdivisions in north Florida. The charge was that the broker had acted with malfeasance in his fiduciary responsibility with the handling of escrow funds. I will not know how the verdict comes out on this. The trial begins on Monday I was fortunate enough to be dismissed as a potential juror. I was happy for that fact.

These two brushes with the wheels of justice this week caused me to reflect. The system is in place in this free country of ours to deal with malfeasance. Those of us who feel taken advantage of can utilize this system of justice that has evolved within our nation. As we have watched the Senate hearings surrounding the Sotomeyor appointment to the Supreme court we should be focused on the extraordinary effort we take to maintain this system. We may seek redress via the court system regardless of our status or station in life. If you are a homeless person who gets run over by a gorilla pushing a shopping cart at Target and suffer bodily harm, trust me, there is an armada of barristers of the law standing in place to help you seek damages. This tort system of ours is what it is. The courts are jammed with silly, frivolous law suits. Many claims get settled before they ever get into court. But we would rather have too much law than not enough.

As a licensed practitioner I am held to standards of performance. I can mis-step along a huge gauntlet of law and regulation, ethics and competency. Many, many eyes watch what I do. If I fail to perform then I deserve to be challenged. Liability looms large. That is why I carry errors and ommissions insurance. To be without is like driving around without auto coverage.

I am currently reading The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbons. At the outset of the book the author points out that Rome evolved to dominate the world in the first century because of the system of law and government that they had in place. I am assuming that Rome fell largely because that system eroded away at some point in time. They ultimately became a conquered and fallen nation.

Remember: " One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." We should give all we have to preserve it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Florida Legislature Repairs Home Inspection

The very first deal I put together was disassembled by a home inspector. I won't go into who he was. My buyer had put in a deal on a home in Summerbrook. It was a lovely home and they ordered a home inspection via a practitioner referred by her Father who was a real estate broker in Georgia. Mrs. buyer went to be present at the home inspection. She was an attractive lady and this had a special appeal to this home inspector who I later learned considered himself a ladies man. He spoke to her off the cuff telling here that he would not buy this home because it was stucco. Nevermind that the Seller had a stucco inspection in place that declared the home free of defects. He did not place anything on his report relative to the stucco being deficient. He merely verbalized the damaging proclamation to my buyer. The damage was done and she insisted on terminating the offer. I had shown them about 20 homes and filled out all the paperwork.

Moreover, I had just recently become licensed as a salesperson. To review that process: 63 hours in a formal class, passing a 100 question end of class exam, Taking a very difficult DBPR license exam and then 45 hours of formal post-license class time and passing of another 100 question exam. Total cost of that endeavor, roughly $1000.00.

This home inspector had just killed my deal so I looked into what sort of licensure he had pursued to get into a position of deal destruction. Imagine my surprise to learn that his position required no licensure at all. NOTTA !!! Yet he and others of his ilk play very prominently into a real estate transaction and carry immense influence. The fact that my 2 year grand-daughter and her neighbor could become home inspectors the day after they decided to do so blew my mind. As I write this post home inspectors, in Florida, still require zero licensing requirements.

I had just recently been streeted through a buyout of our division by another company. Prior to that I had lobbied the Florida legislature off and on for 30 years. I had friends in the legislature and made mention of this inequity to some of them. Simultaneously a colleague in my same division had decided to become a home inspector in North Carolina. This is what it required to become such and had been so for many years: 100 hours of class room time; a one year apprentice-ship under a licensee, performing 100 home inspections; passing a fairly difficult state exam.

I was told by one of my acquaintances that a home inspection/mold remediation bill was soon to be on the books. Senate Bill 2234 was passed by the '06 legislature and becomes law 7/1/2010. It will require licensure of home inspectors and mold remediators. They will be required to sit through 120 hours of class time; carry certain minimums in liability insurance and 14 hours of continuing education prior to each licensing renewal. Unfortunateley, those home inspectors who have been in the business for so many years can be grand-fathered into licensure.

When I decided that I wanted to become a real estate broker this is what was required: One year of salesperson servitude under a licensed Broker; 72 hours of class room instruction; passing the class test; passing the DBPR hard, hard state exam; 60 hours of post-license class time and passing that exam. Add it all up and I had 240 hours of classroom instruction and the stress of 4 very difficult formal exams and one year of servitude.

This post is not about trashing home inpsectors. There are some very competent practitioners here in Florida. Some are certified by state and national certification associations. That is not, however, licensure. If I have to jump through the difficult hurdles required to become a real estate broker, then please require that those who can kill my deal, at a minimum, be licensed.

The Florida legislature bought that argument and a little less than a year from now the playing field will be leveled somewhat. Now all we need is for the market to rebound. That is a whole different subject to post on. I do that bi-weekly under The Tallahassee Market on my website at