No License to Discriminate: 5 Discrimination Laws for REALTORS®


Avoiding Discrimination in Real Estate
Housing is a necessity for life. It is no wonder that the Government protects individuals from discrimination that would keep them from obtaining this necessity. However, sometimes the interactions of these laws can create a challenging landscape to navigate for brokers, REALTORS®, and other real estate professionals. In many cases, a failure to understand the intricacy of such law can lead to accidental discrimination that was not in the mind of the REALTOR® or broker at the time of listing. A good knowledge of each applicable law will keep REALTORS® out of trouble.

The Laws

  1. Civil Rights Act of 1866
    The Civil Rights Act of 1866 prohibits all racial discrimination in the sale or rental of property on a very basic level.
  2. Fair Housing Act
    The Fair Housing Act enforces a national policy of fair housing throughout the United States for “protected classes.” The FHA makes it illegal to discriminate in the sale, lease, or rental of housing, or making housing otherwise unavailable, because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.
  3. Americans with Disabilities Act
    The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against disabilities in public accommodations and commercial facilities.
  4. Equal Credit Opportunity Act
    The Equal Credit Opportunity Act makes discrimination unlawful to make any credit application contingent upon any factor that involves the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age. It is also illegal to make the application contingent if all or part of the applicant’s income derives from any welfare or public assistance program.
  5. State and Local Laws
    State and local laws often provide even broader coverage than federal law. For example, in California, The Unruh civil rights act extends further protection from discrimination by all business establishments in California, including housing and public accommodations.

What to look for: Responsibilities & Disparate Impact
While each of these laws contains separate provisions for different classes of people, there are general actions that real estate professionals can take to avoid running afoul of any of them.

Real estate professionals and landlords have a responsibility under the combination of all these laws to not discriminate in the sale, rental, and financing of any property based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. On a basic level, this means that no limitations in the sale or rental can be made before or during the sale that would make it contingent on any of these protected factors of the person looking to buy or rent. This would include denying that housing is available and advertising only to certain classes of people that there is a sale or vacancy. These types of actions and conditions would amount to blatantly discriminatory terms and subject the real estate professional at hand to serious liability.

While following the basic principles of not blatantly discriminating is relatively easy as stated above, there is an area included in the FHA that makes things a bit trickier. In Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that disparate impact claims are cognizable under the FHA. This means that policies or practices that are even neutral on their face could still violate the FHA because they might have a “discriminatory effect.”

Some of these less obvious forms of discrimination in the real estate arena are as follows:

  • Requiring applicants to have full-time employment. While this seems like a good business decision, court might find that this discriminates against various protected classes including those with disabilities and even veterans. The easiest way to avoid this blunder is to ask for “proof of income” instead, as it includes benefits and not job status.
  • Asking for criminal history is another sticky wicket that could result in disparate impact. The key mistake in this situation is asking for criminal history without allowing for proper clarification from the potential renter or buyer.

In short, the best way to avoid disparate impact claims is to think thoroughly through every requirement you make as a condition of renting or selling a property. Do an analysis of every type of person that may be arguably impacted by it and check to see if they are a protected class. If you find that it does, you may still try to tailor the requirement so that it does not affect the specific class in the same harsh way.

2021 New and Revised C.A.R. Forms


The California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R) has released its list of new and revised forms. This list includes three new forms and 11 revised forms. This Courtside Newsletter will discuss what real estate practitioners should be aware of in using the forms for future transactions. Much of the information relating to these forms was obtained from C.A.R.


  1. Fire Hardening and Defensible Space Advisory Disclosure and Addendum (FHDS)

This new form modified the already existing Fire Hardening form by requiring it to also address “defensible space” compliance requirements. “Defensible space” describes buffer zones that homeowners create between a structure on the property and any flammable areas (grass, trees, shrubs, wildland) that surround it.

Due to the extreme fire danger present in California, there are many different state and local laws that require property owners to maintain certain amounts of defensible space on their property when the property is surrounded by flammable areas. In addition to the State law, agents should also check any special local ordinances.

On July 15, 2021, sellers will be required to provide documentation that their property fully complies with these various state and local defensible space laws or that buyers agree to obtain such documentation of compliance in the
future. Defensible space laws under California Public Resources Code § 4291 require brush to be removed, trees to be trimmed and other actions taken within a 30-foot (Zone 1) and a 100-foot (Zone 2) radius around a property to minimize the risk of a home catching fire.

This law applies directly to sales of residential properties, condominiums or other common interest development units, and manufactured homes. Sellers should review NHD reports to first determine if the property is in a high or very high fire zone. If the property being sold is in one of these zones, there are two categories and four ways to comply with the law depending on whether local ordinances apply to the property at issue.

  1. Areas without a local ordinance requiring documentation.

In areas with no applicable local ordinance for documentation, there are two options for complying with the new form. Either (1) the buyer must agree to obtain documentation of compliance within one year after closing escrow or (2) if the seller has obtained documentation of compliance within 6 months prior to entering into contact, the seller must provide that documentation to the buyer and provide information on the local agency from which a copy of that documentation may be obtained.

  1. Areas that have enacted a local ordinance requiring an owner to obtain documentation.

In areas with applicable local ordinances requiring documentation, there are two options for complying with the requirement of the local ordinance or (2) the seller shall provide the buyer with a copy of the documentation that complies with the requirements of that local ordinance and information on the local agency from which a copy of that documentation may be obtained.

If you are unsure of whether a property is in a high or very high zone or there are conflicting answers, paragraph 2(a) of the form strongly advises sellers to err on the side of disclosing.

  1. Transfer of Listing Agreement

The new “Transfer of Listing Agreement” form was created to help brokers navigate situations where agents leave one brokerage company for another, yet continue to work on a listing or escrow they were already working on. Failure to document such a transfer to the new broker may now be considered a DRE violation and presents problems for E&O coverage.

The first paragraph of the new form requires an acknowledgement of the transfer from the original broker to the new broker. The second paragraph addresses whether the original broker will be paid for allowing the transfer of the listing. Payment may come from either the seller or the new broker. The third paragraph acknowledges the termination of the agency relationship with the original broker. The fifth paragraph directs the parties to comply with all MLS requirements. The seventh paragraph seems to default to situations where an agent leaves the original broker for the new broker, but it is important to keep in mind that other less common situations are possible.

The new form also makes clear that an agent is not a party to the agreement, as listings belong to brokers. As a result, the three necessary signatures on this form are for the principal, the seller, and the original and new broker. The agent at issue may sign, but the agreement is still valid without the agent’s signature.


  1. Agricultural Addendum
    This form is commonly used when improved property is located on agricultural land. Due to new laws in the state of California and many changing local ordinances regarding the cultivation and growing of marijuana, paragraph 2(m) was added to address hemp and cannabis cultivation. If you are dealing with agricultural land and cannabis cultivation, this is an important addition to make note of.
  2. Cooperating Broker Compensation Agreement and Escrow Instruction
    In this form, some already present paragraphs were shifted around for clarity’s sake, but new language was specifically added to paragraph 8 that now requires management approval from the buyer’s side broker if offered compensation is reduced. If this situation is present in the transaction, the added box at the bottom of page 2 must be signed as well.
  3. Exempt Seller Disclosure
    In the “exempt seller disclosure” form, paragraph 2(b) was modified to reflect that the changing of non-compliant plumbing fixtures applies to multi-family as well as single family properties. It is also minorly important to note that the order of last two paragraphs switched in the new revision which changes the order of the last item to be completed on the form.
  4. Lease Listing Agreement (Exclusive Authorization to Lease or Rent)
    Some minor but important clarifications were added to the “Lease Listing Agreement” form. Paragraph 3(f) now explicitly states that cooperating compensation is based upon the entire commission amount rather than as a percentage of the lease listing broker’s compensation.

    Paragraph 14(f) was also added to clarify and limit the broker’s duties once a lease is entered into between a landlord and tenant. Most importantly, the lease listing client is now informed that the broker is not being hired to perform property management services in any capacity. However, other options are still available for agents who perform various limited services after the signing of the contract occurs.
  5. Property images Agreement
    In the “Property Images Agreement” form, Paragraph 7 was added to address the increasingly more popular situation where drones and ariel photography are used as opposed to only static ground-level photos or videos. These are minor changes, but still important to follow closely.
  6. Referral Fee Agreement
    In the “Referral Fee Agreement” form, the trigger for a referring broker to earn a right to a commission is further specified to come into effect only upon the entering a contract and not at the closing of escrow. Be careful to clearly understand the complex RESPA and State rules for referrals. C.A.R. has an excellent Q & A available.
  7. Residential Listing Agreement – Exclusive, Open, and Seller Reserved (DOJ and NAR still bargaining – these forms may be held back for awhile)
    The “Residential Listing Agreement” form is still in flux due to the November 2020 settlement between the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). The proposed final judgement requires NAR to take several consumer-friendly actions. The transition of power due to the 2020 election has complicated things a bit more. So far, the following changes have been made.

    Paragraph 7(c) added language that recognizes the absence of a uniform statewide policy on how to handle “Days on Market.” Because of this, the best practice approach is for broker and seller to communicate effectively and establish a proper method together.

    Paragraph 10(c) was added to contractually address the many issues surrounding buyer letters (commonly referred to as “Loot Letters”). Paragraph 10(c)(1) strongly recommends the FHDA form as a resource for any seller interested in fielding buyer letters. This paragraph also mentions ways that buyer letters can be used improperly as in Fair Housing violations, whether intentional or not. Sellers are advised that brokers will not review the letter so the brokers do not have to make any legal judgment on whether the letter contains information that might violate fair housing laws. The responsibility of determining this falls squarely on the seller (NAR and C.A.R. strongly recommend against using these letters).

    10(c)(2) is an instruction from the seller to not to present buyer letters. This instruction when given by the seller should be added into the MLS. However, 10(c)(2)(b) does allow sellers to accept buyer letters if they wish. It is very important to note that it is difficult, but still possible, to accept buyer letters that do not violate fair housing laws. Despite their tentative legality, if a seller chooses to accept buyer letters, they are strongly advised to seek legal counsel in preparation for legal challenges.

    Language was also added to paragraph 10(e) that identifies additional reports sellers might want to order at time of listing. One these listed reports is the NHD report. Before this revision, NHD reports were only provided to buyers. However, this was changed as sellers may now need to review those reports so the seller can determine if a disclosure is required for fire hardening or defensible space. The most critical possible changes to this form may come in paragraph 15 if the DOJ and NAR release the terms of their settlement agreement in time for the revised form’s release. These changes would have a huge impact on the industry as they are rumored to focus on the disclosure of buyer sider broker commissions and granting access to MLS properties by non-MLS members via lockboxes and key safes. These developments will be incredibly important to follow. The same changes and tentative changes apply equally to forms “Residential Listing Agreement – Open” and “Residential Listing Agreement – Seller Reserved” as well.
  8. Statewide Buyer and Seller Advisory (A great Risk Management Advisory)
    In the “Statewide Buyer and Seller Advisory” form, many minor formatting changes were made to improve the clarity of the form. Changes include a listing of the seven broad categories to which the many paragraphs belong and an alphabetical index of each paragraph and the page where the paragraph is found.

    Paragraph A(14) was added to provide further explanations and resources for disclosures in the new “Fire Hardening and Defensible Space Advisory Disclosure and Addendum” form (discussed above). Paragraph C(6) was added to address various wildlife provisions. Lastly, Paragraph C(7) was added to address concerns over coastal property with regards to rising sea levels.
  9. Seller’s Purchase of Replacement Property
    In the “Seller’s Purchase of Replacement Property” form, the only major change recognizes that a seller may satisfy the condition of the replacement property contingency if the seller identifies a new place to move. This “new place” may be a new purchase, a rental, or something else like moving in with a parent or child.


Should you have any questions or concerns regarding these forms, we encourage you seek qualified counsel—either through an attorney or your local REALTOR® Association—for answers.

Eviction Moratorium Update June 2021

Federal Eviction Moratorium – The CDC extended the Federal eviction moratorium until July 31.  Last night, the US Supreme Court said the CDC lacked authority to implement a blanket nationwide moratorium.  The Court declined to lift the ban in place; however, the ruling ensures the moratorium will expire at the end of July.  NAR is pleased with the ruling and calls this a massive victory for property rights owners.

California Eviction Moratorium – AB832 was introduced Friday, voted on Monday, and signed into law Monday night.  Who says the government can’t work fast when they want to!?!  AB832 extends the rent and eviction moratorium through September 30, 2021.  The bill also provides up to 100% rental assistance for landlords and tenants.  This is an increase from the previously approved 80% assistance for landlords.  Landlords who have already been approved for the 80% assistance do not need to reapply for the additional 20%.  The rent assistance is for eligible tenants and covers rental arrears for rent owed going back to April 1, 2020.  Currently, Federal funds are provided to assist only tenants who earn up to 80% of area median income.

A more detailed Legal Q&A as well as a Legal Quick Guide can be found on CAR’s website by visiting  Please note that this link requires a C.A.R. login.

Courtside Real Estate: Risk Management: 19 Tips to Avoid Agent Liability


Identifying Negligence

As one can imagine, the Firm gets lots of calls relating to agent “liability.” Today we discuss the tort of negligence as it applies to real estate agents. This topic is a full semester in law school, so we are just going to hit some highlights.
There are four elements that must be proven in order to find negligence. They are: duty, breach, causation, and damages. There must be a legal duty or obligation the agent has to their client, the parties, or the public. The agent must then act in a manner that falls below the standard of care. This act, or failure to act, must be a substantial cause of monetary harm or damage – a financial issue.

Duties are imposed by statute, regulation, ethical obligations, case law, and common practice. For example, doing a reasonably competent diligent visual inspection of accessible areas of a residential property (1-4) and disclosing what is discovered in writing is a duty imposed by Statute in California Civil Code, Section 2079(a). Doing a poor job below the standards set by common practice in the area or improperly filling out an AVID form most agents use can create

“liability” which is defined as the “state of being responsible for something.”

Since there are so many possible duties, and so many opinions on what creates this “liability,” it is important to understand there are risks inherent with the job of a real estate agent but there are methods to manage the risk. If an agent acts in a manner that ignores the client’s best interest in order to promote their own profit, odds are there will be little that can be done to protect that agent. Failing to cooperate with other agents, failing to advise the Seller of offers, or failing to disclose known or discovered defects are ways to potentially create serious liability.

The following are some tips to avoid some of the pitfalls in discharging duties. It is one man’s opinion, not complete by any means, and is merely meant to highlight some areas where you can help yourself.

19 Tips to Avoid Liability

  • Review both the NAR Code of Ethics (a basis for California Law) and the MLS Rules;
  • Disclose actual knowledge of any material fact to the parties;
  • Disclose all material information to your own client;
  • Review the Preliminary Title Policy with your client and point out potential issues, but do not cross over the line and interpret facts or legal issues. Just disclose what you see, you are not lawyers, engineers, or surveyors;
  • What groups, such as governmental agencies, HOA’s, or utility companies have control over the property?
  • Are there public services nearby, such as airports, military installations, or train stations, that impact the property;
  • Choose your words carefully, especially in marketing. Be careful in how you describe the property;
  • Your visual inspection includes your eyes (what you see), your ears (what you hear), and your nose (what you smell);
  • Keep emotions and unreasonable expectations to a minimum;
  • Professionally document conversations, choose words carefully;
  • Stay away from adjectives, such as water stain or settlement crack. These interpretations as to the cause of what you see are for the experts;
  • Provide sources of information you convey, especially to your clients (eg. The inspector told me…). Do so in writing;
  • Stay away from numbers such as “there are six cracks.” There could be more you don’t see;
  • Avoid comments such as “except as noted the house looks in good shape.” The AVID is not a sales tool;
  • Document lack of cooperation by parties or other agents;
  • Do NOT give opinions as to who is entitled to the deposit or if someone has a right to cancel. These are legal issues;
  • Give your clients adequate time to review everything;
  • Understand Fair Housing issues;
  • Save correspondence, including texts.

There are hundreds of tips. These are just a few. Above all SLOW DOWN. Give yourself time to think, act, and communicate. Give your clients time to digest the information and ask questions.

C.A.R.’s Jordan Le Vine on Market Data for Local Associations

At a time when member engagement is made difficult by the pandemic, and the real estate markets throughout California are incredibly hot, you need market information to push out to your members. Jordan Levine, C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist, brings customizable, shareable, and interactive online market data to local associations. Jordan takes you through and highlights the tools that C.A.R. provides so that you can customize them and share them with your members and community. As a bonus, he gives a brief Market Update and also touches on some of the concepts that are currently in development so you have inside knowledge about future tools and reports. Great information for AEs, Communication Directors, and Social Media staff!

Courtside Newsletter: Non-Contingent Offers


In this market, many buyers find themselves in bidding wars with other potential buyers. In order to sweeten offers, in the multiple-offer situations, many buyers are waiving all or most of the contingencies set forth in the standard C.A.R. Residential Purchase Agreement (RPA). While this practice is perfectly legal, there are a number of potential concerns to be aware of.

“What is a contingency?”

Simply defined, a contingency is a condition precedent to a buyer’s duty to fully perform. Assuming the buyer acts in good faith, a buyer will have the time allotted in the RPA (generally 17 days) to either satisfy and remove the contingency or cancel the Contract. (It should be noted that the RPA provides that the time to resolve those contingencies could be extended if the seller does not demand their removal by providing a Notice to Buyer to Perform) Simply stated, the buyer does not default, and contingencies remain to protect the deposit.

“Why is this important?”

Generally, the buyer will deposit a certain amount to assure performance (usually up to 3% of the purchase price) and agrees that if they fail to perform and default the seller gets to keep the deposit as “Liquidated Damages.” If the contingencies are removed, or are waived in the first place, the seller is entitled to the deposit under most circumstances where

the buyer cannot close on time. (It should also be noted that for every rule there are exceptions. DO NOT practice law by giving your opinions as to the seller’s rights to the deposit. There are too many legal issues. Let the lawyers interpret!)

Types of contingencies.

While the RPA provides for as many as nine (9) preparation contingencies, there are three (3) that may be critical: The Loan Contingency, The Appraisal Contingency, and The Inspection Contingency. Each contingency deserves its own Courtside Real Estate newsletter. However, by waiving these contingencies, the buyers could lose their deposit if the Liquidated Damages clause is part of the RPA and they cannot perform.

Risk Management Tips

  • Make sure the buyer understands the risk of losing their deposit if they cannot perform and the reasons the contingencies they are waiving exist.
  • If they are waiving the appraisal contingency in the fluctuating market, they may still cancel but will most likely lose their deposit.
  • Get as much done as you can before the term period for cancelling provided by a Transfer Disclosure Statement expires. That “Right of Recission” is statutory and cannot be waived.
  • Make sure you carefully document your files and, whenever possible, get the buyers acknowledgement. Write professionally.
  • If you are the listing agent, do not guaranty the seller’s right to the deposit. Things can always go wrong.

Next Month: An analysis of new and revised C.A.R. forms due in June.

What is the Clear Cooperation Policy?

The Clear Cooperation Policy is a NAR-mandated policy that governs the public marketing of listings and their entry into the multiple listing service. Within one (1) business day of marketing a property to the public, the listing broker must submit the listing to the MLS for cooperation with other MLS participants.

Stay up to date with Clear Cooperation Policy updates at


• Days Not Active (DNA): The days in any status other than Active, Active Under Contract or Pending.

• Days on Market (DOM): The days Active or Active Under Contract without that deal closing.

• Days in Pending (DIP): The days in Pending or Active Under Contract not in DOM.

• Days Listed (DL): List Contract Date until List Finalization. No days removed for any status or condition. DL = DNA + DOM + DIP

RULE 9.3 – SHOWINGS 9.3 Availability to Show or Inspect. Listing Brokers shall not misrepresent the availability of access to show or inspect a listed property. For any property in which Listing Broker selected a status of Coming Soon or Hold, Listing Broker represents that the property shall have no showings or tours, by Listing Broker or otherwise, until such a time as the Property is placed in the Active or Active Under Contract status.

Rule 10.1 – COMING SOON A valid listing contract exists, and no offer has been accepted. The Listing Broker is in possession of a seller signed instruction to submit the listing as “Coming Soon”. Marketing and Advertising as defined in Rule 7.9 is permitted and shall include language that property is “Coming Soon” and shall include the date for which property will become Active. The property is not available for showings consistent with Rule 9.3

COMING SOON IN MATRIX The Status tab has been updated to include Coming Soon as an option. The new field, Start Showing Date, under the Office/MLS tab will appear if Coming Soon is chosen. The date must be within 21 days of the listing input date. COMING SOON FORM The Coming Soon form is also available for download at:

 Rule 10.1 – HOLD (H): The Listing Broker is in possession of a seller written instruction to submit the listing as “Hold”. Marketing and Advertising as defined in Rule 7.9 is permitted. The property is not available for showings consistent with Rule 9.3.  

CITATION POLICY Citation Fine for violation of 7.8, 7.9, 7.9.1, 9.3 is in the amount of: 1% of the list price or $500 whichever is greater not to exceed the amount of $2,500. Each Violation will receive a WARNING and opportunity to correct before any fine is issued.

To learn more about the Clear Cooperation Policy, please visit

Possible Alternatives or Options to Foreclosure

California Department of Real Estate
1651 Exposition Boulevard
Sacramento, CA 95815

Consumer Alert

Regardless of your particular situation, if you are unable to meet your monthly mortgage loan payments, you face the probability of foreclosure. When you purchased or refinanced your home, you borrowed money from a lender. The lender is entitled to repayment according to the financial terms described in your mortgage loan documents. If you miss your mortgage loan payments, your lender can cause your home to be sold to pay off your mortgage loan. This procedure is called foreclosure.

While going through foreclosure is an overwhelming experience, the last thing you should do is nothing. You may pursue a number of possible alternatives to foreclosure and should take the initiative to do so. Because not all alternatives or options are appropriate, you need to decide which solution might be best for you in your particular circumstances. Consulting an attorney early in the foreclosure process can help you decide which option is best for you and protect your rights as a homeowner. Possible alternatives or options include:

  • Loan modification;
  • Refinance: pay off your loan with a new loan on better terms;
  • Sell your home;
  • Pursue a “Short Sale”;
  • Rent out your entire home;
  • Rent out rooms;
  • Offer a “Deed-in-Lieu” of foreclosure to your lender or its servicing agent; or,
  • Home equity sale.

This article addresses a home equity sale, one of the potential alternatives to foreclosure.

A home equity sale is an alternative to foreclosure and only available for homeowners who still have equity in their home, meaning that the value of the home exceeds the indebtedness owed to the lender or lenders. California Law contains protections for residential real property in foreclosure. In order for the protections to apply, the property must be one to four dwelling units, the owner must occupy one of the units as his/her primary residence, and the property must be subject to an active Notice of Default.

Home Equity Purchasers are persons who acquire homes in foreclosure as an investment and not for occupying. Purchase and sale transactions between a Home Equity Purchaser and a homeowner whose home is subject to an active Notice of Default are subject to specific provisions of California law. Requirements of this law include standards for the contents of the contract between the Home Equity Purchaser and the homeowner. The contract must contain the entire agreement of the parties and must include, among other information, the following:

  • The name, business address, and the telephone number of the Home Equity Purchaser;
  • The address of the home in foreclosure (subject to an active Notice of Default or Trustee Sale);
  • The total consideration purchase price to be paid by the Home Equity Purchaser in connection with or incident to the sale;
  • A complete description of the terms of how the Home Equity Purchaser will pay for your home, other consideration including, but not limited to, any services of any nature which the Home Equity Purchaser represents he or she will perform for you before or after the foreclosure sale;
  • The time in which possession is to be transferred to the Home Equity Purchaser;
  • The terms of any rental agreement;
  • Proper notice of your right to cancel with an equity purchaser. The right to cancel expires at midnight of the fifth business day following the day on which you signed a contract or 8 a.m. on the day scheduled for the sale of the property pursuant to a power of sale conferred in a deed of trust, whichever occurs first. The required format for the notice can be found in Sections 1695.3 and 1695.5 of the California Civil Code.

The homeowner is entitled to a right of cancellation, and the purchase and sale transaction cannot be concluded, nor can the Home Equity Purchaser (or you at the request of the Home Equity Purchaser) refinance or borrow money from the equity in the home until the cancellation period has expired. Further, you will not receive any consideration (money) for your equity until the cancellation period expires. If you elect to cancel, the original contract and any other document (instrument) you may have signed must be returned to you without any condition being imposed by the Home Equity Purchaser.

Home Equity Purchasers are prohibited from making untrue or misleading statements regarding the market value of your home, the amount of net proceeds you may receive (if any) after the sale, about any contractual term, or the nature of any document (instrument) you sign. You should be aware that it is unlawful for any person to initiate, enter into, negotiate, or complete any purchase or sale transaction involving your home in foreclosure, if such person, by the terms of the transaction, takes unconscionable advantage of you.

As part of the proposed purchase and sales transaction, some Home Equity Purchasers will offer you the opportunity to repurchase your home at some future date. The Home Equity Purchaser will demand that you transfer title to the property to another buyer and that you may stay at your home and at some future time exercise an option to repurchase. Such purchase and sales transaction is presumed to result in a mortgage loan rather than a sale
of the home, unless the Home Equity Purchaser can prove otherwise.

Applicable California law is intended to protect you (the homeowner) from unethical and unscrupulous Home Equity Purchasers who are acquiring your home when it is in foreclosure. Even if your home is not subject foreclosure, you may need protection when considering a purchase and sales transaction with an investor seeking to purchase your equity. As you can see from this brief discussion, the law is complex and you would benefit from the advice of an attorney who is knowledgeable regarding real estate transactions.

Selling Your Equity – Quick Tips

  • Hiring a real estate broker may be helpful, but is not required. A licensed real estate broker will solicit for buyers (purchasers), help you negotiate contract terms, and will assist with the closing process.
  • Not knowing the fair market value of your home could expose you to unethical business practices. A knowledgeable real estate broker (active in your neighborhood and community) or an independent appraiser can assist you in estimating the current fair market value of your home.
  • Avoid private transactions where a request/demand is made by the buyer/purchaser for you to sign papers in exchange for a cash payment (particularly without the use of a separate, third-party escrow holder). In California, licensed public escrows, title insurance companies, underwritten title companies, among others who either are licensed or expressly exempt from licensing as an escrow holder, are authorized to perform escrow services. These services include paying off your existing lender as part of the purchase and sales transaction.
  • Unethical persons often attempt to persuade homeowners to complete informal transactions that provide “instant cash” or will offer to buy the homeowner’s equity using what the buyer/purchaser describes as a “contract of sale”. This type of transaction could ultimately result in financial grief. Obtaining advice from an attorney is highly recommended before entering into a “contract of sale” (a contract where title remains in your name and the deed is delivered at some later date to the buyer/purchaser).
  • It may take a significant amount of time to find a buyer for your home. Begin the marketing of your home as early as possible. You should keep your monthly mortgage loan payments current during this period.
  • As long as this transaction involves a complete payoff to your lender or its servicing agent of your mortgage loan, it is not a “short sale.” The prior permission of the lender or its servicing agent is not necessary. However, there may be a prepayment penalty as part of the terms of your mortgage loan, charging you an extra fee if you pay off your mortgage loan early. You should negotiate with your lender or its servicing agent to waive this fee. Some prepayment penalties are contrary to applicable law, and a real estate attorney can assist you in this situation.

For additional resources about alternatives to foreclosure, please visit the Department of Real Estate’s consumer publications page at

Issue Date: October 2020

How Property Managers Should Respond to Bounced Checks

What to do with a Bounced Check

In an ideal world, your tenants would never have trouble paying their rent. But of course we all know that isn’t always the case. While you might sometimes accept a late payment from a long-term, loyal tenant, a bounced check can be a whole other matter. Bounced checks can actually cost you money in fees, not to mention you now have to spend energy and resources collecting the overdue rent.

Bankruptcy vs Credit Repair Flyer


As with all legal matters, a bit of prevention can prevent a big headache later. The first step to dealing with bounced rent checks actually comes before the first check is ever written! Make sure to have a real estate attorney review your leasing forms, to make sure all rights and responsibilities are spelled out for both landlord and tenant. You should clearly outline a procedure for dealing with returned checks, so that your tenant is prepared for the inevitable action should they ever write you a bad check.

If your bank collects a fee for submitting a returned check, you might be able to recover that amount from your tenant. In addition, make sure your lease clearly outlines a course of action for late rent payments. By the time your bank notifies you that a check has been returned, several days or even a week may have gone by. At this point you have to not only talk to your tenant about the dishonored check, but also about their late rent. 

Normally, you can’t require cash payments from tenants. However, if a tenant has paid you with a dishonored check within the last three months, you can ask that payments be submitted in cash. By law, you must give your tenant the amount of notice specified for any routine changes to the lease. Submit the notice in writing, attach a copy of the dishonored check, and inform your tenant that rent shall be paid in cash.

If your leasing forms have been reviewed by a real estate attorney and are compliant with the law, you shouldn’t have any problems requesting cash from your tenants or collecting late rent payments. And if your leasing forms clearly outlined the procedure for dealing with bounced checks, your tenants shouldn’t feel surprised by your actions.


Can Bankruptcy Prevent Foreclosure?

Many people wonder if filing for bankruptcy will prevent foreclosure on their homes. When you file for bankruptcy, it’s important to ask your bankruptcy attorney to explain all possible ramifications of that action. This prevents unpleasant surprises and helps you to better plan for the future. While banks will often delay foreclosing on a home while your bankruptcy proceeds, they can indeed proceed with foreclosure at any time.

Bankruptcies and Foreclosures

There are two basic ways in which the bank can reclaim your property:

With a “deed in lieu of foreclosure”, you sign over the deed and all interest in the property to the lender. This can be slightly better for your credit than a foreclosure, but not all banks give you the option to proceed in this way.

With an actual foreclosure, the bank may proceed with a  judicial or non-judicial process. With the judicial process, the lender has to go through a court process in order to reclaim the property. In the non-judicial process, the bank can take possession of the property and sell it at auction after proceeding through a specific foreclosure process set forth by the state.

Unfortunately, filing for bankruptcy does not mean you can stop paying for the home and keep it. Many banks will wait until your bankruptcy is complete before starting or continuing with the foreclosure process, so while bankruptcy may play a role in delaying the inevitable, it does not prevent foreclosure altogether.

Until the home is legally possessed by the bank, you still own it.  TO THE SURPRISE OF MANY UNDERWATER HOMEOWNERS, EVEN A SURRENDER IN BANKRUPTCY CANNOT FORCE THE BANK TO RETAKE POSSESSION OF THE HOME. In many cases it is wise to use this time, if you are not still making payments to the bank, to save cash for your eventual move to another residence. It will probably be difficult to purchase a new home for two to three years, and sometimes longer, due to the impact the foreclosure will have on your credit rating. You can, however, bounce back from this unfortunate situation. Talk to your bankruptcy attorney to be sure you have reasonable expectations for the future.