Welcome to the Texas Pre-License Real Estate Law Course. This course will cover the key laws and legal concepts that apply to the field of real estate, including contracts, deeds, fair housing, foreclosures, land titles and records, leases, and real property rights and land use. Additionally, the course will cover the Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act, a federal law that regulates the closing and settlement of real estate sales, and various Texas statutes and laws that affect real estate practice, including Texas constitutional and statutory homestead protections, the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and the Texas statute that provides remedies for fraud in real estate and stock transactions.
The legal system regulates every aspect of real estate sales. This body of law includes the common law, meaning law developed by the courts, and statutory law, meaning laws that are enacted by the state (Texas) or the federal (United States) government. In this course, the student will become familiar with the various laws that regulate real estate transactions, and the role the legal system plays in real estate sales.
Although a real estate salesperson or broker does not, and cannot, act as an attorney, it is important for a licensee to develop a thorough understanding of the various laws and statutes that affect real estate transactions, because those laws impact the licensee's daily activities in making and negotiating real estate sales. For example, real estate transactions almost always involve a contract, such as a licensee's agreement to sell a property, a prospective buyer's offer on a house, or a seller's counter-offer on property. Deeds are written instruments that are used to convey title to real property. As a result, licensees must have a clear understanding of the uses and purposes of different types of deeds. State and federal laws apply to the purchase, rental, or financing of housing, and prohibit discrimination based on gender, religion, handicap, color, race, national origin, or familial status. Licensees need to understand the legal concepts associated with leasing real property, because licensees will be dealing with commercial and residential real property leases when conducting their businesses. In order to properly advise buyers or sellers, a licensee must be well versed in the areas of liens, taxes, and the foreclosure process. The licensee must also have a working knowledge of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, which regulates the closing and settlement of real estate transactions. Moreover, buyers, sellers, and licensees all face potential liability for engaging in deceptive or fraudulent sales practices involving real estate. Thus, a licensee must understand the ethical and legal standards that regulate real estate transactions and the licensee's conduct, including the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
If a licensee does not understand the laws that affect the real estate profession, the licensee faces lawsuits, loss of license, and failure. An individual makes a large commitment of time and money in order to become a licensed real estate professional - it would be a waste of those resources to "throw it all away" because the licensee is ignorant of or unconcerned with the laws that govern the profession. Even an "innocent" mistake can result in liability to the licensee. For example, if a licensee unintentionally gives a client faulty advice regarding a sales contract, the licensee can be sued under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and faces the prospect of paying damages to the injured party. The disgruntled client can also file a complaint with the Texas Real Estate Commission, and the licensee faces loss of license and fines.
In addition to the laws and statutes that affect the real estate profession, a licensee should be familiar with the general structure of the Texas judicial system, and how it works. Imagine the structure of the Texas judicial system as a pyramid, with the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals at the top. The Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals are the state's highest appeals courts. The Texas Supreme Court has final appellate jurisdiction in civil cases, while the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has final appellate jurisdiction in criminal cases. "Jurisdiction" means the authority of a court to hear and decide a case. In this case, the Texas Supreme Court has the final authority to hear and decide civil cases, while the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has the final authority to hear and decide criminal cases.
The Texas Courts of Appeal are on the next, or second, level of the pyramid. There are 14 courts of appeal, organized by geographic region. The Texas Courts of Appeal hear civil and criminal appeals from the trial courts.
On the next, or third, level of the pyramid are the district courts, the constitutional county courts, the county courts at law (also called the statutory county courts), and the statutory probate courts.
The district courts are the primary trial courts in Texas, and are courts of general jurisdiction. The Texas Constitution gives the district courts exclusive appellate and original jurisdiction of all actions, except in cases where jurisdiction is conferred by the constitution or other law on some other court, tribunal, or administrative body. In effect, then, this means the district courts have jurisdiction in all criminal cases above the grade of felony; misdemeanors involving official misconduct; civil cases; divorces; suits for title to land or enforcement of liens on land; contested elections; suits for slander or defamation; and suits on behalf of the state for penalties, forfeitures, and escheat.
The constitutional county courts have original jurisdiction in civil actions between $200.00 and $10,000.00; probate (contested matters may be transferred to the district court); misdemeanors; juvenile matters; and appeals from lower courts or municipal courts of record.
The county courts at law, or statutory county courts, have jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters as prescribed by statute. Also, the county courts at law have jurisdiction over civil matters where the amount in controversy is less than or equals $100,000.00. Statute gives some county courts at law higher jurisdictional amounts.
The statutory probate courts hear probate and guardianship matters.
On the last level of the pyramid are the justice and municipal courts. The justice courts hear civil actions of not more than $10,000.00, small claims, evictions, and criminal matters punishable by fine only. The municipal courts hear criminal misdemeanors punishable by fine only, and criminal cases arising out of municipal ordinance. Also, the municipal courts have limited civil jurisdiction in cases involving dangerous dogs.
The real estate profession is a dynamic and interesting occupation that offers the potential for significant financial and personal rewards. By mastering the subject matter of this course, the licensee will establish competence with the public and peers, and avoid unfortunate consequences arising out of uninformed or unprofessional conduct.
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