Identify the broker – always

When advertising, all real estate licensees are required to provide their name, California Department of Real Estate (DRE) license number, Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) ID number (if applicable) and their responsible broker’s identity. This must be included on:

  • real estate purchase agreements;
  • business cards;
  • stationary;
  • advertising flyers;
  • television advertisements;
  • print advertisements;
  • electronic media;
  • directional signs; and
  • any other materials soliciting business from the public. [Calif. Business and Professions Code §10140.6]

The responsible broker’s identity is defined as the employing broker’s name,

or name and license number, not merely a team name or fictitious business name filed by the sales agent with the broker’s authorization. [Bus & P C §10159.7]

“For sale”, rent, lease, “open house” and directional signs are exempt from containing the above identification information only if they:

  • display the responsible broker’s name, or name and license number, without reference to a broker-associate or sales agent; or
  • do not display information identifying a licensee.

Is your team playing by the rules?

Real estate brokers and corporations often use fictitious business names

when conducting activities requiring a real estate license.

Before using a fictitious business name when rendering real estate services requiring a license, a broker needs to first obtain an individual or corporate broker license from the DRE bearing the fictitious name.

A real estate salesperson may not use a fictitious business name that is not identified with their employing broker. [Bus & P C §10159.5; California Department of Real Estate Regulation §2731]

These days, many real estate licensees have joined other licensees with similar goals and work ethics. They have created teams to improve the level of services offered to their clients. In turn, their per-agent earnings are increased. In the process, they often adopt fictitious names to title their joint operation.

The use of “team names” such as “The John Smith Team” or “John Smith & Associates” are often included on “For Sale” signs, business cards and other promotional marketing pieces. Both team names and fictitious business names are subject to the state rules governing their use.

Rules for fictitious business names and team names

An employing broker may authorize a real estate salesperson they employ to file an application with the county clerk to obtain a fictitious business name under which the salesperson may conduct business. The salesperson is required to:

  • deliver to the DRE an application signed by the broker requesting permission to use a county-approved fictitious business name identified with the broker’s license number;
  • pay any associated fees to the county or DRE; and
  • maintain ownership of the fictitious business name subject to the control of their broker.

To reduce filing requirements, a team name is now defined separately from a fictitious business name. A team name is not considered a fictitious business name triggering the above requirements if the team name:

  • is used by two or more real estate licensees who work together to provide licensed real estate services under an employing broker;
  • includes the surname of at least one of the licensees in conjunction with the term “associates,” “group” or “team”; and
  • does not include the term “real estate broker,” “real estate brokerage,” “broker” or “brokerage,” or any other term suggesting the licensees are offering real estate brokerage services independent of a broker.

Any marketing materials using a fictitious business name or team name need to conspicuously display:

  • the licensees’ names and license numbers; and
  • the broker of record’s identity as prominently as the fictitious business name or team name.