2021 Regular Session

To: Business and Financial Institutions

By: Senator(s) Thompson, Sparks

Senate Bill 2624

(As Sent to Governor)



     SECTION 1.  Section 73-35-23, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     73-35-23.  (1)  The commission is hereby authorized and directed to take legal action against any violator of this chapter.  Upon complaint initiated by the commission or filed with it, the licensee or any other person charged with a violation of this chapter shall be given fifteen (15) days' notice of the hearing upon the charges filed, together with notice of the option of appearing before the commission or an administrative hearing officer as provided in subsection (6) of this section and a copy of the complaint.  The applicant or licensee or other violator shall have an opportunity to be heard in person or by counsel, to offer testimony, and to examine witnesses appearing in connection with the complaint.  Hearings shall be held at the offices of the Mississippi Real Estate Commission, or at the commission's sole discretion, at a place determined by the commission.

     At such hearings, all witnesses shall be properly sworn and stenographic notes of the proceedings shall be taken and filed as a part of the record in the case.  Any party to the proceedings shall be furnished with a copy of such stenographic notes upon payment to the commission of such fees as it shall prescribe, not exceeding, however, the actual cost to the commission.  The clear and convincing standard of proof shall be used to examine factors during all hearings.  The commission shall render a decision on any complaint and shall immediately notify the parties to the proceedings in writing of its ruling, order or decision.

     (2)  In addition to the authority granted to the commission as hereinabove set forth, the commission is hereby vested with the authority to bring injunctive proceedings in any appropriate forum against any violator or violators of this chapter, and all judges or courts now having the power to grant injunctions are specifically granted the power and jurisdiction to hear and dispose of such proceedings.

     (3)  The commission is hereby authorized and empowered to issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and the production of books and papers.  The process issued by the commission shall extend to all parts of the state, and such process shall be served by any person designated by the commission for such service.  The person serving such process may receive such compensation as may be allowed by the commission, not to exceed the fee prescribed by law for similar services.  All witnesses who are subpoenaed and who appear in any proceedings before the commission may receive the same fees and mileage as allowed by law, and all such fees shall be taxed as part of the costs in the case.

     (4)  Where in any proceeding before the commission any witness shall fail or refuse to attend upon subpoena issued by the commission, shall refuse to testify, or shall refuse to produce any books and papers the production of which is called for by the subpoena, the attendance of such witness and the giving of his testimony and the production of the books and papers shall be enforced by any court of competent jurisdiction of this state in the same manner as the attendance and testimony of witnesses in civil cases are enforced in the courts of this state.

     (5)  The commission may obtain legal counsel privately to represent it in proceedings when legal counsel is required.

     (6)  The commission shall establish a pilot program whereby an administrative hearing option shall be established, which shall consist of administrative hearing officers designated by the Attorney General for the purpose of holding hearings, hearing evidence and rendering decisions on matters determined to be the subject of a hearing for a licensee or any other person charged with a violation of this chapter or affecting the license of any person coming under its jurisdiction, when the licensee or any other person charged with a violation of this chapter shall request, in writing, for the matter to be heard by the administrative hearing officer.  Administrative hearing officers shall be staff attorneys employed by the Attorney General's office, but must not currently hold a license issued by the commission.  The administrative hearing officers shall have the same powers and authority in conducting hearings and rendering decisions as granted to the commission in this section.  Hearings before an administrative hearing officer shall be held in the City of Jackson, Mississippi, at a place, time and manner agreed upon by the commission and the hearing officer within the city.  The clear and convincing standard of proof shall be used to examine factors during all hearings.  Any right of appeal available to a licensee or applicant for a license availing itself to the provisions hereof shall be preserved as if the matter had been heard and decided by the commission.  This subsection (6) shall stand repealed on July 1, 2024.

     (7)  Nothing in this section shall preclude the commission and a licensee from entering into an agreed order resolving a complaint prior to the hearing.

     SECTION 2.  Section 73-35-25, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     73-35-25.  (1)  Any applicant or licensee or person aggrieved shall have the right of appeal from any adverse ruling or order or decision of the commission or administrative hearing officer to the circuit court of the county of residence of the applicant, licensee or person, or of the First Judicial District of Hinds County, within thirty (30) days from the service of notice of the action of the commission upon the parties in interest.

     (2)  Notice of appeals shall be filed in the office of the clerk of the court who shall issue a writ of certiorari directed to the commission commanding it, within thirty (30) days after service thereof, to certify to such court its entire record in the matter in which the appeal has been taken.  The appeal shall thereupon be heard in due course by said court, without a jury, which shall review the record and make its determination of the cause between the parties.

     (3)  Any order, rule or decision of the commission or administrative hearing officer shall not take effect until after the time for appeal to * * * said the court * * * shall have has expired. * * *  In the event  If an appeal is taken by a defendant, such appeal * * * may shall act * * *, in the discretion of the court, as a supersedeas and the court shall dispose of * * * said the appeal and enter its decision promptly.  However, the commission may file a motion within ten (10) days of the date of filing the notice of appeal and request the court to lift the supersedeas upon the commission's showing, by clear and convincing evidence, that immediate and irreparable harm will or may occur if the licensee or person aggrieved were to continue operating as a licensee.

     (4)  Any person taking an appeal shall post a satisfactory bond in the amount of Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) for the payment of any costs which may be adjudged against him.

     (5)  Actions taken by the commission in suspending a license when required by Section 93-11-157 or 93-11-163 are not actions from which an appeal may be taken under this section.  Any appeal of a license suspension that is required by Section 93-11-157 or 93-11-163 shall be taken in accordance with the appeal procedure specified in Section 93-11-157 or 93-11-163, as the case may be, rather than the procedure specified in this section.

     SECTION 3.  Section 73-35-21, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     73-35-21.  (1)  The commission may, upon its own motion and shall upon the verified complaint in writing of any person, hold a hearing pursuant to Section 73-35-23 for the refusal of license or for the suspension or revocation of a license previously issued, or for such other action as the commission deems appropriate.  The commission shall have full power to refuse a license for cause or to revoke or suspend a license where it has been obtained by false or fraudulent representation, or where the licensee in performing or attempting to perform any of the acts mentioned herein, is deemed to be guilty of:

          (a)  Making any substantial misrepresentation in connection with a real estate transaction;

          (b)  Making any false promises of a character likely to influence, persuade or induce;

          (c)  Pursuing a continued and flagrant course of misrepresentation or making false promises through agents or salespersons or any medium of advertising or otherwise;

          (d)  Any misleading or untruthful advertising;

          (e)  Acting for more than one (1) party in a transaction or receiving compensation from more than one (1) party in a transaction, or both, without the knowledge of all parties for whom he acts;

          (f)  Failing, within a reasonable time, to account for or to remit any monies coming into his possession which belong to others, or commingling of monies belonging to others with his own funds.  Every responsible broker procuring the execution of an earnest money contract or option or other contract who shall take or receive any cash or checks shall deposit, within a reasonable period of time, the sum or sums so received in a trust or escrow account in a bank or trust company pending the consummation or termination of the transaction.  "Reasonable time" in this context means by the close of business of the next banking day;

          (g)  Entering a guilty plea or conviction in a court of competent jurisdiction of this state, or any other state or the United States of any felony;

          (h)  Displaying a "for sale" or "for rent" sign on any property without the owner's consent;

          (i)  Failing to furnish voluntarily, at the time of signing, copies of all listings, contracts and agreements to all parties executing the same;

          (j)  Paying any rebate, profit or commission to any person other than a real estate broker or salesperson licensed under the provisions of this chapter;

          (k)  Inducing any party to a contract, sale or lease to break such contract for the purpose of substituting in lieu thereof a new contract, where such substitution is motivated by the personal gain of the licensee;

          (l)  Accepting a commission or valuable consideration as a real estate salesperson for the performance of any of the acts specified in this chapter from any person, except his employer who must be a licensed real estate broker;

          (m)  Failing to successfully pass the commission's background investigation for licensure or renewal as provided in Section 73-35-10; or

          (n)  Any act or conduct, whether of the same or a different character than hereinabove specified, which constitutes or demonstrates bad faith, incompetency or untrustworthiness, or dishonest, fraudulent or improper dealing.  However, simple contact and/or communication with any mortgage broker or lender by a real estate licensee about any professional, including, but not limited to, an appraiser, home inspector, contractor, and/or attorney regarding a listing and/or a prospective or pending contract for the lease, sale and/or purchase of real estate shall not constitute conduct in violation of this section.

     (2)  No real estate broker shall practice law or give legal advice directly or indirectly unless said broker be a duly licensed attorney under the laws of this state.  He shall not act as a public conveyancer nor give advice or opinions as to the legal effect of instruments nor give opinions concerning the validity of title to real estate; nor shall he prevent or discourage any party to a real estate transaction from employing the services of an attorney; nor shall a broker undertake to prepare documents fixing and defining the legal rights of parties to a transaction.  However, when acting as a broker, he may use an earnest money contract form.  A real estate broker shall not participate in attorney's fees, unless the broker is a duly licensed attorney under the laws of this state and performs legal services in addition to brokerage services.

     (3)  It is expressly provided that it is not the intent and purpose of the Mississippi Legislature to prevent a license from being issued to any person who is found to be of good reputation, is able to give bond, and who has lived in the State of Mississippi for the required period or is otherwise qualified under this chapter.

     (4)  In addition to the reasons specified in subsection (1) of this section, the commission shall be authorized to suspend the license of any licensee for being out of compliance with an order for support, as defined in Section 93-11-153.  The procedure for suspension of a license for being out of compliance with an order for support, and the procedure for the reissuance or reinstatement of a license suspended for that purpose, and the payment of any fees for the reissuance or reinstatement of a license suspended for that purpose, shall be governed by Section 93-11-157 or 93-11-163, as the case may be.  If there is any conflict between any provision of Section 93-11-157 or 93-11-163 and any provision of this chapter, the provisions of Section 93-11-157 or 93-11-163, as the case may be, shall control.

     (5)  Nothing in this chapter shall prevent an associate broker or salesperson from owning any lawfully constituted business organization, including, but not limited to, a corporation, limited liability company or limited liability partnership, for the purpose of receiving payments contemplated in this chapter.  The business organization shall not be required to be licensed under this chapter and shall not engage in any other activity requiring a real estate license.

     SECTION 4.  This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2021.