On February 25, there was a stir in the Florida real estate world. The Florida Association of Realtors issued an alert that, yes, we must comply with the new Federal Trade Commission Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (FTC MARS) ruling.
Previously, there was much Florida Realtor confusion about FTC MARS. When I initially inquired, the FAR attorneys said we were covered by the Florida Chapter 494 Opinion Letter. Since we help sellers with short sales in the normal course of listing and selling homes, as long as there was no upfront fee, there was no need to change our procedures.
That changed last week. FAR issued a directive that Florida Realtors must comply with the new MARS FTC ruling. Whoa! Scramble.
If you are a Florida real estate broker who specializes in short sales, what do you? Here is my checklist, which I immediately put into action:
1. Add the following language to my websites and email signature, since I actively help consumers with short sale listings: “IMPORTANT NOTICE: Rulnick Realty, Inc. is not associated with the government, and our service is not approved by the government or your lender. Even if you accept this offer and use our service, your lender may not agree to change your loan. If you stop paying your mortgage, you could lose your home and damage your credit.”
2. Send out letters with a MARS FTC listing addendum to ALL my current short sale listings, to comply with consumer specific commercial communication. We are allowed to use our own company letterhead instead of the FAR letterhead, which I did. Each envelope had a self-addressed stamped return envelope to make it easy for my sellers.
4. Call an Office Meeting to discuss the FTC rule with my agents, including "Prohibited Claims":
The MARS Rule prohibits mortgage relief companies from making any false or misleading claims about their services, including claims about:
5. Prepare an MARS FTC Office Policy addendum to my independent contractor agreement for my agents.
I completed my changes in a day. The Florida Association of Realtors legal department made it easy.
Wendy Rulnick, Broker, Rulnick Realty, Inc.
Call toll-free 1-877-ITS-WNDY (1-877-487-9639) or local 850-650-7883 ext 204
Email Wendy: [email protected]
Wendy is a short sale and pre-foreclosure specialist and has been featured in "Kiplinger Personal Finance Magazine" and "Florida Realtor Magazine". Call Wendy Rulnick, Broker/Owner, to list and sell your home or condo on the Emerald Coast of Florida in Walton, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa County- Destin, Santa Rosa Beach, Fort Walton Beach, Niceville, Bluewater Bay, Navarre, Seagrove Beach, Watercolor, Sandestin, Seaside, Crestview, Rosemary Beach, Mary Esther, Shalimar, Eglin AFB, Hurlburt Field.