Understanding the Complaint Process - Real Estate Appraisers, Appraisal Management Companies and Home Inspectors
- Any person may file a complaint with the Commission against a licensed or certified appraiser or a licensed home inspector.
- Complaints are required to be in writing on official forms prescribed by the Commission. Written complaints must be signed under oath and state the facts on which they are based. By filing a complaint, it may be necessary for the complainant to appear at a formal hearing before the Commission or in court. A copy of the appraisal report or inspection report in question must be submitted with the complaint in order for the Commission to determine whether the subject appraisal or home inspection report was performed in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
- After a complaint is filed with the Commission, it is screened by the staff to determine if it meets the basic requirements of paragraph two. If it does, the staff forwards a copy of the complaint to the appraiser or home inspector involved and asks for a response in writing. At this stage, the appraiser or home inspector involved learns the identity of the individual who has filed the complaint so that a full and complete response to the complaint may be prepared and so that the appraiser’s or home inspector’s right to due process is protected. Pursuant to the Code of Maryland Regulations, a licensee is given 30 days to respond to a complaint based on the date on which the complaint is received.
- Once a response has been received from the appraiser or home inspector involved, the file is reviewed by the members of the complaint committee of the Commission and with an assistant attorney general. The complaint committee may determine that there is no basis to proceed and dismiss the complaint. The complaint committee may also request that the staff of the Commission conduct a further investigation to obtain more information from all relevant sources. After the additional information is obtained, the complaint committee again meets with an assistant attorney general to determine whether charges should be issued or the complaint should be dismissed.
- In certain cases, the Commission may choose to attempt to resolve cases informally before charges are issued. This process would involve a meeting between the representatives of the Commission and the licensee involved and perhaps their respective counsel to resolve the case prior to a formal hearing. Such a resolution could involve the imposition of some form of disciplinary action or remedial measures through a consent order.
- If the complaint committee decides that charges should be issued, the appraiser or home inspector in question is provided with notice of the alleged violations of the law, and a hearing date is set. The hearing can be either before an administrative law judge or before a hearing board, comprised of three members of the Commission.
- At the hearing, the appraiser or home inspector involved is provided with procedural protection such as the right to an attorney who may present evidence and cross-examine witnesses. A written decision is filed after the hearing is concluded which must be based on evidence presented at the hearing. If the appraiser or home inspector is not satisfied with the results, he or she ordinarily has the right to file exceptions and the right to appeal the final decision in circuit court.
- Under the law, charges can be issued against an appraiser or home inspector for such things as dishonest or fraudulent acts in providing real estate appraisal or home inspector services; fraudulently or deceptively using a license; engaging in conduct that demonstrates bad faith, incompetency, negligence or untrustworthiness, or that constitutes dishonest, fraudulent, or improper dealings; or violating the Commission’s regulations that include ethical standards and practices.
Ultimately, subject to the hearing provisions of the law, the Commission may deny a license or certificate to any applicant, reprimand any licensee or certificate holder, suspend or revoke a license or certificate, and/or impose a fine of not more than $5,000 to a licensee or certificate holder who violates the Code of Ethics, Standards of Practice, the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, or any other applicable regulatory or statutory provisions of the Commission. However, the Commission lacks the authority to order the re-issuance of an appraisal or home inspection report, order the reimbursement of any monies for any reason, or arbitrate any matters concerning financial disputes or financial recoveries.