FTC MARS Checklist for Florida Short Sale Agents

 

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. 

 

3.   Change my Short Sale Approval Acknowledgment form to include language from both  FTC MARS Disclosure for Offer from Lender I and FTC MARS Disclosure for Offer from Lender II  

 

4.    Call an Office Meeting to discuss the FTC rule with my agents, including "Prohibited Claims":

Prohibited claims

The MARS Rule prohibits mortgage relief companies from making any false or misleading claims about their services, including claims about:

  • the likelihood of consumers getting the results they seek;
  • the company's affiliation with government or private entities;
  • the consumer's payment and other mortgage obligations;
  • the company's refund and cancellation policies;
  • whether the company has performed the services it promised;
  • whether the company will provide legal representation to consumers;
  • the availability or cost of any alternative to for-profit mortgage assistance relief services;
  • the amount of money a consumer will save by using their services; or
  • the cost of the services.

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.

 

It's Wendy!

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]

Destin FL Real Estate

Destin Short Sales & Pre Foreclosure Help.

Read Wendy's Destin Real Estate Blog

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. 

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Comment by Wendy Rulnick on March 6, 2011 at 7:36am
Bill - I know it's an awkward sentence, we are forced to use it. I would say "yes" to the question you are posing, but my own listing addendum already addresses this issue.
Comment by Bill Travis on March 6, 2011 at 4:57am

Wendy, I'm curious about the statement: 

If you accept the
offer, you will have to pay us _____________________________(insert same amount
previously disclosed to Seller) for our services.

 

Typically the lender is paying the commission. Is this statement intended in case the listing agent has a listing clause that states that s/he will be paid 10 widgets for the service, and if the lender only pays 8 widgets, then the seller will pay the listing agent the other 2 widgets?

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