Do I Need A Real Estate License To Manage Property?
Professional licensure requirements in the United States are intimidating to many novice property managers. Many times, if a property manager is working for a larger company, the company will make these requirements clear. Both a company and its employees can receive hefty fines, mandated continuing education, or worse if an individual at the company is practicing without a license. However, if property managers are starting out on their own, they don’t have that kind of guidance and may not even ever take into account that they need a license.
What’s worse, whether a property manager needs a license – and how he acquires that license – varies from state to state. Each state and the District of Columbia sets its own laws by statute, which are then interpreted as needed by the individual state’s real estate board or equivalent, resulting in widely disparate laws.
Furthermore, calling up the state’s licensing board about the finer points of licensure requirements may not result in a useful answer. Curious property managers may be able to ask their questions directly of the board and get an answer to their practice question, depending on the state. But many boards refuse to answer pointed questions about licensure on the grounds that they cannot give anything that can be construed as legal advice or advice about individual cases.
Ignorance Is No Excuse
As a rule of thumb, no matter the state, all professionals are expected to know the licensure requirements of the state where they work. In other words, the burden is on them and any company they're affiliated with, and not on the licensure board. Property managers should make sure they do their homework about licensure requirements and stay abreast of new developments, whether via news sources or the licensing board's website.
In most states, property managers need to have a real estate broker’s license. In addition, some states may have requirements for a property manager, or a real estate broker more generally, to be affiliated with a company, or licensure requirements may be less stringent if the professional is with a company. Yet again, it’s a good idea to check with the state in question.
However, some states (as of this writing, Idaho, Kansas, -for residential property management- Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont) do not require a license for property management. Still other states and districts (D.C., Montana, South Carolina and South Dakota) require a license that is specifically for property management rather than including property management as a subset of real estate. Some states, though not many, have still other requirements for managing a community association.
How to Get a License
The requirements for getting a license – what the individual needs to do – vary from state to state as well. Most states require that an aspiring licensee be of age (over 18 or over 21). Often licensees need to take courses and pass an exam, although these requirements may be waived if the licensee can practice law in the state. Once the license is issued, keeping it up usually involves paying a fee on a regular schedule and possibly also taking continuing education. Specific courses may be mandated by the state, or the license’s first renewal may not require CE, so be sure to check.
If this is all still confusing, check to see if there’s a state-level professional real estate organization that can clarify, or contact the licensing board with questions. Even if it seems clear, or especially if there are rumors that the licensure requirements may be changing, it’s never a bad idea to get in touch with somebody to be sure. It only takes a minute, and the consequences of unlicensed practice can be serious.
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