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Legally speaking: Can an agent promote themselves as Jane Doe Realty?

By Peg Ritenour, OAR Vice President of Legal Services/Administration

The OAR Legal Assistance Hotline receives an array of real estate-related legal questions — including license law issues, disclosure, contract law, ethics and commission problems, among others. In an effort to help you work within the law, our “Legally Speaking” series spotlights some of the timely questions that are being asked by REALTORS. The following addresses the use of “Realty” or “Real Estate” by agents or teams… 

Q: I have an agent affiliated with me named Jane Doe. She wants to “brand” herself and advertise as Jane Doe Realty. I also have another agent that is forming a team and wants to use “The Miller Real Estate Team” as their name. Is it OK for agents or teams to use the term “Realty” or “Real Estate” in conjunction with their name in advertising?

A: No, neither of these suggested names is permissible under the license law, according to the Ohio Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing (“ODRE&PL”).

Ohio Administrative Code Section 1301: 5-1-02 provides that the words “Realty” or “Real Estate” may be used by a brokerage in advertising even if not part of the brokerage’s licensed name or approved “DBA” (“doing business as”). With respect to advertising by an agent, the license law states that name identification in advertising shall consist only of the name of the agent as it appears on the agent’s license. There are some exceptions in this section that allow agents to use common nicknames, initials and middle names. However this section only allows a brokerage — not an agent — to add the terms “Realty” or “Real Estate” to its licensed name. Therefore, Jane Doe may not advertise as Jane Doe Realty.

As to teams, it is important to understand that teams are not licensed by the ODRE&PL. However a team name can be used in advertising as long as the requirements set forth in the team advertising rule  are followed. Although this rule does not specifically prohibit the use of “Realty” or “Real Estate” in a team name,  the ODRE&PL has indicated this is not permissible for two reasons. First, it interprets Section 1301: 5-1-02 as allowing only brokerages to use these terms. Further, the ODRE&PL believes the use of such terms by a team would be likely to mislead the public to believe the team is a brokerage, which of course it is not. Therefore, in the example above, use of the name the “The Miller Real Estate Team” would not be permitted.

For more information on the team advertising requirements, click here.

Tags: legal, Legally Speaking