State Roundup: Arkansas, New York, and Hawaii

April 1, 2005

Arkansas: Relaxed fund trigger

New state rules take pressure off of licensees, who are required by law to get earnest money deposited into a trust fund within three days. The new rules start the three-day clock upon execution, rather than at seller acceptance, of the contract. The difference between the two can be substantial, says Bill Williamson, executive director of the Arkansas Real Estate Commission. That’s because negotiations on final details can continue after seller acceptance. The rules took effect at the first of the year.

Hawaii: Island of calm

The Hawaii Real Estate Commission disciplined 12 licensees in fiscal 2004, the fewest in 20 years, says Calvin Kimura, HREC supervising executive officer. The reduced disciplinary actions come even as 2,194 new licenses were issued in the year, 43 percent more than in 2003, when 23 practitioners were disciplined. Behind the decline, Kimura says, are a stronger economy—consumers file fewer complaints when times are good; better-educated licensees and consumers; and coordination between brokerages and the REALTOR® community in resolving complaints through dispute resolution, mediation, and arbitration.

New York: Parking commissions.

After years of fighting for a legislative remedy against real estate clients who challenge commission payments, the New York State Association of REALTORS® is hoping a winner is on the table. A bill introduced early this year would park commissions in escrow until disputes are resolved. Currently, practitioners can file an “affidavit of entitlement to the commission,” but that’s proven insufficient, says Duncan MacKenzie, NYSAR’s government affairs director. The bill strengthens the affidavit by putting the disputed funds in the hands of a neutral third party. And it does that without encumbering the property title with a lien or holding up the closing—important conditions for lawmakers. As of late February, cosponsors numbered 43 in the assembly and 17 in the Senate, compared with 28 and 15, respectively, in the last session. But the bill won’t get serious attention until after lawmakers pass the state budget, which in past years hasn’t happened before July, says MacKenzie.

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