What is the Do-Not-Call Registry?
The cold-calling activities of real estate professionals after October 1, 2003 will need to comply with the requirements of the new federal do-not-call registry, based on rules issued by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”). While the federal do-not-call registry contains exemptions, these do not cover the telemarketing activities of real estate professionals. Any exemptions found in state law for real estate professionals are now eliminated and compliance with the federal “do-not-call” registry is now required by real estate professionals who engage in telemarketing.
Do I have to check the list for all sales calls I make?
Please refer to your office policy for the specific steps you must take when calling consumers regarding real estate services. There are several generic steps an agent should to take to ensure compliance:
A company can call any residential number in three (3) instances:
- if there is a personal relationship with the consumer (“personal relationship” is defined as “family member, friend, or acquaintance of the telemarketer making the call”);
- if the consumer’s express written invitation or permission to call, or
- if the company has an “established business relationship” (“established business relationship” is defined as “existing clients and customers”. This relationship extends for up to 18 months after the end of a transaction. If a consumer makes an inquiry, the telemarketer can call the person for up to three months after the inquiry. There is no limit on what you can discuss with the consumer during those three months. Thus, other listings could be discussed with the consumer over the next three months.
If the person you would like to call does not fit into one of these three categories, your firm may require you to check if the person you are calling is in the Do-Not-Call Registry.
How do I handle contacting FSBO’s (For Sale By Owners)
FSBO’s registered with the Do-Not-Call registry can only be contacted if the Realtor has a client interested in their property. Buyer’s representative can only discuss his/her client’s interest in the property and not use a purported client’s interest as a way to also discuss the possibility of the FSBO owner listing his/her property with the buyer’s representative.
FSBO’s or anyone listed on the Do-Not-Call registry can not be contacted in an attempt to solicit a listing or for general inquiries. This is not considered a regular course of business, but rather a solicitation / sales attempt, and subject to telemarketing rules.
A consumer calls my office to inquire about a listing. Can I call this consumer to talk about other listings over the next three months, or I am limited to only discussing the property which prompted the consumer’s call?
The Rules permit a company to call consumer following an inquiry for three months after the inquiry or until the consumer requests to be placed on the company’s do-not-call list. There is no limit on what the company can discuss with the consumer during those three months. Thus, other listings could be discussed with the consumer over the next three months.
A former client calls and tells me a friend of hers would like me to call her to discuss the possibility of her listing her home with me. Do I have to check the Do-Not-Call registry before making this call?
Agents may not cold-call a friend of a client, even at the urging of their client, if they are listed on the Do-Not-Call registry. When you client tells you, “My neighbor Bob down the street told me that he is going to sell his house and you should really give him a call…” Sorry – this is not allowed if Bob’s phone number is listed in the registry.
Can I call visitors to an open house who provide their phone numbers on a sign-in sheet?
The safest course would be to provide some kind of notice on the sign-in sheet alerting visitors that they are consenting to receive a follow-up call, such as providing space on the sign-in sheet for visitors to include their name, telephone number, and a box next to each line allowing the visitors to check “yes” if they would like to receive a follow-up call. Your office administrator, per the policy, will provide you with the company’s open house sign-in sheet.
Can I still call Expired Listings?
The established business relationship exemption permits the listing agent as well as other agents from the same company to contact the seller for up to 18 months after the expiration date. For all other agents, the Registry must be consulted prior to calling. If the seller has placed their number in the Registry, you should refrain from calling them until further clarification is provided by the FCC, unless some other exemption allows them to call the seller (such as an inquiry from the seller).
Can my local association download the area codes for my county and post those on its website for use by the members?
No, the Rules make it clear that the only permissible use of the registry is for compliance purposes. It is not permissible to download and distribute the lists to third parties, even if the purpose of the distribution is to help members comply with the Rules.
How do I get the list?
Your office will provide, in its written policy and in practice, the details for accessing the Do-Not-Call list. There are three basic ways to access the Do-Not-Call Registry that your office may choose from:
- Provide a password to agents in the office, as policy dictates, to allow an interactive search of the registry database, not more than 24 hours before a telemarketing call is made. Note: If this is the option your office selects, you will be able to check up to ten (10) numbers at a time to see if they are in the Do-Not-Call Registry.
- Download certain area codes and provide the Do-Not-Call list, whether electronically or in hard copy format to the agents in the office. This list will be updated, per office policy, not less than every three months, and agents are required to check the list not more than 24 hours before a telemarketing call is made.
- Provide a “clean list”, those numbers not on the registry that agents are allowed to call.
Also, your office has an obligation, as outlined and described in your company policy, to maintain an additional company-specific numbers, for any incident when a consumer not listed on the registry is contacted by a member of your firm and request that future calls by your company stop (ie: Please don’t call here again, remove me from your list, etc..).
Are there any requirements about calling a consumer who is not listed in the registry?
Yes, there are rules that govern telemarketing calls in general, to provide protection for those not listed on the registry. Please refer to your company policy for details on the rules for your office. Listed here are the minimum requirements – Your office may have stricter guidelines when making calls. Please make sure you talk to your broker about the policy
Your office will determine:
- The times of day/night when calls can be made. The Rules permit calls to be made only from 8am-9pm (local time where call is going to be received) Monday-Saturday.
- If you are allowed to let the phone to ring for the longer of four rings or fifteen seconds before hanging up
- Prohibited from using autodialers or prerecorded messages
- Blocking caller identification services
- What sales agents need to say during every call (name, company name, and have contact information available)
- Maintaining confidentiality of any lists downloaded from the Registry
- Specifying unacceptable conduct during a call (examples: repeatedly calling the same number; allowing phone to ring numerous times; abusive tactics such as threats or obscene language; or hanging up when consumer begins to request placement on company’s do-not-call list)
What are the fines and are there any safe harbors?
The fine for calling someone whose name appears on the Do-Not-Call Registry is up to $11,000 per call by the federal government, $500 for a lawsuit by a state attorney general or a consumer.
There is a “safe harbor” for inadvertent mistakes. To meet the safe harbor, the entity making the call must demonstrate that:
- – It has written procedures to comply with the do not call requirements
- – It trains its personnel in those procedures
- – It monitors and enforces compliance with these procedures
- – It maintain a company specific list of telephone numbers that it may not call
- – It accesses the national registry no more than three months prior to calling any consumer and maintains records documenting this process
- – Any call made in violation of the do not call rules was the result of an error
Do No Call Registry Step by Step Details for Brokers and Office Managers can be found on-line in the broker risk reduction section of this website