The New York Department of State recently told real estate agents there that — independent contractors or not — you can’t give yourself some highfalutin title to make yourself sound more important than you are.
Calling yourself a president, vice-president of this or that, protector of the innocent, or whatever constitutes deceptive advertising according to New York law.
Quoth Howard Rubin and Goetz Fitzpatrick in Real Estate Weekly:
When dealing with puffed up titles, the letter opinion makes clear that unless the agent is a corporate officer or member of a limited liability brokerage company or partnership, they cannot have any title that infers that they hold such a position.
Therefore, a Vice-President has to be a Corporate Vice-President of the Corporation and a Managing Director has to actually have the job responsibilities of a Managing Director.
In fact, that can hardly ever be the case in New York, where real estate law prohibits anyone selling real estate under another broker from holding a corporate management position.
Further, the state has warned brokers that they could also be subject to disciplinary action if their agents start getting, shall we say, above their station.
It’s unclear how many New York City brokers will be affected by the ego-deflating decision, but it’s almost certain to cause tumult in the status-obsessed industry.
True, this doesn’t affect Virginia — but we will soon perform the rite to summon Blake Hegeman and get his opinion on titles in the commonwealth.