There is no person in the United States who has ever been sent to real estate jail because there is no such thing. You can “accidently” forget to tell the buyer that this house has been condemned – and you won’t get sent to real estate jail. You can swindle a million dollars from a client – and you won’t get sent to real estate jail. You can even assault your next open house visitor – and you won’t get sent to real estate jail. Do you know why? Because there is no such thing as real estate jail. Any of these offenses might get your license penalized by your state real estate commission. You might even get sent to jail or prison, but it is real jail and real prison – not some real estate jail for real estate offenders.
In Florida, as in most other states, many violations of real estate law are in fact crimes. In other words, it’s a misdemeanor or felony. You can go to jail for committing a real estate offense, but the Florida Real Estate Commission is not going to sentence you to jail – they don’t have that authority. Only a judge has that authority. But should you be sentenced to jail for violating a real estate law, you are going to jail – real jail, county jail, the same jail that other misdemeanor offenders will be at. In fact, you might even be sentenced to prison, real prison, state or federal prison, the same prison where other felony criminals are housed. You will not be sent to “real estate jail” any more than DUI offenders are sent to “alcohol jail.”
Why do I make such a big deal of this? You might say, “It’s just semantics.” I make a big deal of this because I’ve heard this phrase used in pre-licensing classes, continuing ed classes, and at Realtor conventions. These are places where accurate information should not only be what we strive for – we should absolutely insist on it. If the people teaching these classes can’t get it right, how do we expect their students (the real estate practitioners of the world) to get it right?
I’ve heard people use “real estate jail” to mean your license will be revoked. I heard people use the phrase to mean going to prison for a real estate-related offense. I’ve heard people use this phrase to mean they are attending a Florida Real Estate Commission meeting as punishment, rather than by choice. Because there is no such thing as real estate jail, you can use it to mean anything you want. Again, if the people teaching classes and writing books – the so-called “authorities” in our field – are dispensing inaccurate information, is it any wonder that Mr. Rookie can’t accurate information?
And if the new people in our field can’t get accurate information about the field, is it any wonder that Joe Public doesn’t trust our industry?