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New law brings tenfold penalty increase for unlicensed real estate agents

A house for sale in the Parkridge neighborhood of Knoxville.
Lynsey Weatherspoon
/
NPR
A new Oregon law will stiffen penalties for unlicensed real estate agents. The is a file photo of a house for sale in Tennessee.

Unlicensed real estate agents in Oregon will face dramatically steeper fines with a new law taking effect in January.

The higher penalties are aimed at out-of-state agents who cross the border to sell homes in Oregon without paying for an Oregon license. The minimum fine for a first offense will increase from $100 to $1,000. The minimum fine for subsequent offenses will increase from $500 to $2,500.

The previous fines just weren’t high enough to deter anyone, said Jenny Pakula, CEO of the industry group Oregon REALTORS.

"They weren't substantial enough to make a difference," she said. “For someone who just made a $30,000 commission, it’s pretty easy to pay a hundred bucks to get the agency off your back."

Pakula said licensed agents in Oregon have noticed agents cross the border from Idaho and California, in particular, to sell homes in places like Ontario, Medford or Klamath Falls.

But she said in the state's largest border city, Portland, unlicensed real estate agents don't seem to be as common.

"People are (frequently) dual-licensed in the Portland and Vancouver area, so it wasn't as prevalent a problem," she said. "At least, not that has been brought to our attention."

Pakula said people who buy from unlicensed out-of-state agents are at risk of not being informed about Oregon’s consumer protection laws for home buyers.

"Many laws dealing with property are very state-specific," she said.

The bill passed the Oregon legislature in February with broad bipartisan support.

The Oregon Real Estate Agency offers an online lookup tool for home buyers who want to determine if their agent is currently licensed in the state of Oregon.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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