Online renewal packets on way Realtors and brokers can tend to licenses in easier fashion

Clicking onto something new

State bureaucracy looking forward to less paperwork

December 28, 1997|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN REAL ESTATE EDITOR

As the new year arrives, Realtors and brokers around the state will begin receiving packets for their license renewal.

But now those packets will inform agents that for the first time they can renew by going online.

The Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation hopes that at least half of the state's 37,000 licensed Realtors will go to its World Wide Web page on the Internet and renew electronically instead of gathering and pushing through the paperwork.

The real estate community will be the first of the state's approximately 175,000 professionals to have the option of renewing and paying for (via a credit card) their licenses electronically.

According to Harry Loleas, a deputy commissioner, five of the department's 20 offices (in Bel Air, Hagerstown, Waldorf, Cambridge and Southwest Baltimore) will have Internet stations.

But he added that there are a variety of avenues for agents to get online -- such as colleges and libraries -- and then go to the department's Web page at www.dllr.state.md.us.

From that point, Realtors should be able to click onto the necessary pages to complete the transaction.

"We just want to make sure that there is a clarity of understanding among the licensees of exactly how this is going towork, how this is going to benefit them," Loleas said. "And, when they bring the system up, they will clearly understand the process.

"We don't want to see them stuck on the Internet for 20 or 30 minutes, trying to figure out what they are trying to do. So, between the screens themselves and the instructions that we send out, we want to make it as informative as possible and have them only take a few minutes to do a licensing transaction," he added.

As a part of the new renewal strategy, the department also will stagger the Realtors' two-year license period, thus eliminating the April deadline crush, which in the past slowed the department's ability to process licenses.

To do that, Loleas said, the department will randomly select Realtors who will be issued licenses anywhere from a six-month to a 30-month period before returning to the normal 24-month cycle.

He added that fees and continuing education requirements will be prorated accordingly, and final figures will be decided in the January meeting of the Real Estate Commission.

"This will be a new experience for them. We don't know how it is going to evolve," Loleas said.

"There is a clear payoff to the licensee in terms of a paper process, especially one that is fixed-date renewal under the old system. It might take weeks for you to get your license.

"In an electronic setting, the license is in the mail within 24 hours."

Another aspect of the transition from paper to electronic licensing will be the verification of continuing education credits.

All agents are required to prove that they have taken 15 classroom hours of continuing education. Agents who renew the traditional way mail certificates with their paperwork.

But, regarding those agents who renew electronically, Loleas said they will be on the "honor system" during this transition period.

"In completing the transaction, agents will attest to the fact that they have completed the 15 hours of continuing education," Loleas said.

"We will then do a post-audit where we will randomly write to an agent or a broker or an associate broker and say, 'Send us your certificates.'

"We will follow that protocol very scrupulously and send something out to all those people.

"And if they have not completed the courses, then they are subject to disciplinary action."

He said that action may include having a license suspended or revoked or "whatever the commission determines it wants to do."

But as agents begin to fulfill their educational requirements for the next renewal period, they won't have to show certificates at all.

Instead, the institutions will electronically file them.

"[Previously] if you took five or six different courses to complete continuing education, that meant the licensee had to deal with it, and ultimately the staff here had to deal with it." Loleas said.

"Count the hours, make sure the hours were in the right vTC categories, which would certainly slow down the process of the renewal."

But now, "When Bill Smith takes a three-hour course in fair housing at Anne Arundel Community College, Anne Arundel Community College will report that completion electronically.

"And that three hours of credit will go into Mr. Smith's licensing file and be there. Once we do it electronically, we won't need to audit," Loleas said.

Eventually, the benefit to the Realtors is that they will be able to keep track of their continuing-education requirements by going online and entering their personal identification and registration numbers.

And if they don't have enough hours, the system will not allow them to renew their license.

Loleas did not venture a guess about when the renewal process would go totally electronic.

"Certainly, we would expect the paper system and the electronic system to co-exist side-by-side, until the usage figures show us definitely that it is time to eliminate the paper system," he said.

Pub Date: 12/28/97

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