The Maine Real Estate Commission was established to supervise licensees under the Real Estate Brokerage License Act, 32 M.R.S.A. § 13001, et seq. ("the Act") to ensure that licensees meet standards which will promote public understanding and confidence in the business of real estate brokerage. The Commission has the authority to investigate alleged violations of the Act either upon petition filed by an aggrieved person or upon its own motion. An investigation will generally follow the procedural steps set forth below:
- A copy of the complaint is sent to the licensee, and the designated broker, requesting a written response.
- Upon receipt of the response, a copy is sent to the person filing the complaint with an opportunity for the complainant to respond or supplement the complaint.
- An investigation is undertaken by Commission staff covering the specific allegations in the complaint but also may include other possible violations of the Act. The investigation will most often include a telephone interview of the complainant and the licensee, a record of which will be placed in the complaint file. All communication between the licensee, the complainant, and the Commission staff will become part of the complaint record which becomes public information at the conclusion of the investigation.
- After completion of the investigation, the Director determines whether to dismiss the complaint or proceed with a consent agreement or a hearing.
- If the determination is made that a violation has occurred, in most cases a consent agreement will be prepared and sent to the licensee. A consent agreement is a voluntary mechanism for resolving enforcement matters without a hearing or further proceedings. It is a negotiated settlement between the Director and the licensee in which the licensee admits to one or more violations of the Act and agreed upon sanctions are imposed. The person filing the original complaint is not a party to the consent agreement.
- The licensee will be given an opportunity to review the proposed consent agreement with the Director and discuss modifications. The licensee may reject the consent agreement, which will then result in a hearing brought by the Director. If the Director and the licensee reach an agreement, it goes to the Commission members for review. The Commission members may approve the agreement or reject it, in which case a hearing may be scheduled, or further investigation may occur. The Assistant Attorney General assigned to the Commission must also approve the consent agreement on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General.
- Hearings before the Commission members are conducted in accordance with the Maine Administrative Procedure Act. The Assistant Attorney General assigned to the Commission will lead the proceeding, calling and examining witnesses under oath, introducing evidence, etc. The licensee has the right to testify, call and question witnesses under oath, and introduce evidence. Many times the complainant will be called to be a witness as well. The licensee has the right to be represented by a lawyer. The Director has the authority to issue subpoenas compelling the attendance of witnesses and/or the production of documents. At the close of the hearing, the Commission members deliberate and vote on whether or not a violation of the Act has occurred. If the Commission members determine one or more violations have occurred, they will also determine what sanctions to impose. Once the final decision has been drafted and signed, it constitutes the final action of the Commission. The licensee's recourse at that point if he/she disagrees with the decision is to appeal to Superior Court.