The real facts about House Bill 532
By Peg Ritenour, OAR Vice President of Legal Services/Administration
Ohio House Bill 532 — legislation designed to update Ohio’s licensing structure and modernize the delivery of pre-licensing education — is currently being debated at the State House. The bill has a number of supporters, including the Ohio Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing, Ohio Real Estate Commission, Ohio Association of Community Colleges and Ohio Association of REALTORS.
Since the bill has been introduced there have been a number of questions about what it does and doesn’t do. In order the bring clarity to the issue, here are the facts to some of the frequently asked questions:
Q: How does HB 532 amend the license law?
A: It amends the license law in three ways:
- It implements the recommendations of the License Structure Review Task Force appointed by the Ohio Real Estate Commission
- It provides statutory direction for licensees representing more than one buyer making an offer to purchase the same property at the same time (referred to as contemporaneous offers)
- It allows those applying for a real estate sales exam with the option to take their pre-licensing courses on-line.
Q: Who initiated these changes?
A: The Ohio Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing and the Ohio Real Estate Commission appointed the Task Force and approved implementation of its report to modify Ohio license law in several areas. Likewise, Superintendent Ann Petit initiated the process to allow for distance education for pre-licensing education by asking OAR for its support. As to the contemporaneous offer language, OAR legal staff, the Superintendent, and Division counsel worked together to arrive at the provisions included in the bill.
Q: It seems like the only portion of the bill that has garnered any questions is the distance education provisions. Is that true?
A: Yes. The bill has had three hearings and there have been no concerns raised about the Task Force provisions or the contemporaneous offer language.
Q: So is it true that the provisions in the bill allowing distance education weren’t part of the Task Force report? Why not?
A: No, they weren’t part of that report and OAR has never represented that they were. There is a very simple explanation for this. After the Division of Real Estate sought input from OAR on allowing the option of distance education, the Ohio Real Estate Commission approved this legislative change in 2011.
The License Structure Review Task Force was appointed in 2012 and was never asked by the Superintendent to provide input on a decision that had already been made by the Commission. As a member of the Task Force I will tell you that the Task Force was well aware of this decision and in lengthy meetings that lasted almost a year and involved several educational issues, the Task Force never considered advising the Commission to reverse its position on distance education.
Q: Who decided that OAR would support allowing distance education for the pre-licensing sales courses? Staff? As a REALTOR, I don’t remember being asked my opinion.
A: OAR staff DOES NOT make decisions as whether OAR supports or opposes any legislation. Like every non-profit REALTOR Trade Association, OAR is governed by a Board of Directors. In our case, there are 300-plus Directors that represent the interests of our 29,000 members. It was the OAR Board of Directors that voted unanimously to approve the provisions contained in HB 532. It is staff’s duty to carry out the decisions of the Board of Directors.
It is important to understand that before any legislative initiative is considered by the Board of Directors it is first considered by OAR’s Legislative Steering Committee. With respect to allowing on-line distance education for sales candidates, the Steering Committee did its due diligence as follows:
- It conducted a survey of other states in 2011 that showed that 37 allowed distance education at that time (that number has likely gone up).
- Hondros College did a demonstration of an on-line pre-licensing course to a joint meeting of the Legislative Steering and Professional Development Committee.
- OAR conducted a survey of all REALTORS for whom we had email addresses, which at the time totaled over 21,000 members. Therefore if you were a member at that time and we had your email you were asked your opinion in this survey.
The motion of the Legislative Steering Committee to support distance education as an option was then approved by two other groups before going before the Board of Directors – the Enlarged Legislative Committee which has approximately 115 members and the OAR Executive Committee.
Q: Is it true that someone who wants to get their broker’s license in Ohio can already take that additional course work on-line?
A: Yes, that is true and such on-line courses are currently offered in Ohio.
Q: Is it true that some brokers and agents don’t like the idea of distance education?
A: That is true, but with 29,000 members it is not realistic to expect everyone to agree on an issue.
Q: I have heard that HB 532 will reduce the requirements to become licensed, including the requirements for the broker’s exam. Is that true?
A: Absolutely not. The number of hours of course work for a sales license remains the same – 120 hours (which is the third highest in the country). The statement that the broker requirements are changed in any way by HB 532 is completely untrue. The only thing changing is providing candidates for the sales exam with the same option to take courses online that brokers currently have.
Q: I have seen postings and emails that state that this bill will allow unaccredited and “fly by night” schools to teach on-line courses. Is that true?
A: No. All pre-licensing course work must be taken at an Institution of Higher Education, which must be accredited by an entity recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Q: Is this just about making it easier to get a license? I read that OAR is just backing this to get more members.
A: This is not about making it easier to get a license. It is about making real estate courses accessible for those wanting to get into the real estate profession that have difficulty taking courses in a class room setting. The allegation that OAR is somehow doing this to get more members has no basis. The OAR Board of Directors made the decision to support on-line education, not OAR staff. Moreover if this was just about increasing our membership the Directors would have had staff fast track this legislation change back in 2011 when our membership numbers were low, not now when the number of new licensees is going up every month as it has been doing for the last couple of years because of the robust real estate market.
Q: Who has testified about their concerns about the pre-licensing distance education?
A: Hondros College of Business and a handful of brokers.
Q: What is Hondros College opposed to?
A: Hondros wants to require that all pre-licensing courses be taken for college credit. This was put before OAR’s Board of Directors and was not supported. As staff we must follow the directive of the Board.
Q: Are classes currently required to be taken for college credit?
A: No, such credit has never been required. OAR, the Division and initially Hondros all supported adding language in HB 532 to require the courses be taken for credit or be “credit eligible.” HB 532 defines “credit eligible” as a course that is offered by an Institution of Higher Education and is eligible for academic credit that may be applied toward a degree. This will assure that any licensee who wants to pursue a college degree will be able to receive credit for their pre-licensing classes.
Q: Won’t HB 532 create a “loophole” by allowing for non-credit courses?
A: The simple answer is NO. Ohio’s pre-licensure requirements will remain among the nation’s most stringent. As detailed by Bob Fletcher, OAR’s chief executive officer, current pre-licensure courses do not have to be taken for credit or even be credit eligible. HB 532 increases the current requirements so that the courses — offered by an Institution of Higher Education — must be credit eligible.
Q: Why not just require all courses be taken for credit?
A: Again, this was put before OAR’s Board of Directors and was not supported. As staff we must follow the decisions of the Board of Directors. It is important to note that most individuals taking their sales pre-licensing courses are not interested in obtaining college credit, in many cases because they already have a college degree. Forcing them to take classes that are part of degree program is often more expensive for applicants and unnecessary.
Q: What has OAR done to address the concerns that such courses may be substandard if they aren’t part of a degree program?
A: First, we don’t agree with that statement. However to put that argument to rest, OAR has done two things. First, language was included in HB 532 that will allow the Superintendent of Real Estate to report any concerns about the pre-licensing courses offered by an Institution of Higher Education that she believes may be violating educational standards to that entity’s regulating authority. Secondly, we support proposed amendments to HB 532 to require all Institutions of Higher Education offering the pre-licensing courses to receive accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. This is the highest accreditation standard available. OAR is also supportive of an amendment which would require the Superintendent of Real Estate, along with either the Department of Higher Education or the State Board of Career Colleges, to review and approve any pre-licensing sales courses that are not being offered for credit before they are offered by an Institution of Higher Education. This assures upfront approval, as well as the Superintendent’s ability to report later concerns about a course to the entities that regulate these schools.
Q: Who benefits from on-line pre-licensure?
A: Aspiring real estate licensees will benefit from having the choice of taking the required coursework in a classroom or on-line. There are many markets across Ohio that are currently under-served — with classes being held at locations that are as much as two hours away.
Additionally, many would-be licensees are looking to enter the real estate profession as a second career. Their current employment schedule can be a significant hurdle to attaining the required coursework, if the classroom hours conflict with their job.
Take the example of Jenny Barwiler, an aspiring Ohio real estate licensee, who recently contacted the Ohio Association of REALTORS asking about the possibility of taking real estate pre-licensure courses on-line.
Barwiler, who is deputy auditor with the Huron County Auditor, previously had a Michigan real estate license. She moved to Ohio and is interested in obtaining a license. However because of the demands with her job responsibilities, along with the nearest location for classes being about an hour-and-a-half away, she was interested in knowing if a distance learning option — which is permitted in Michigan (and 36 other states) — was available to her?
We replied that while current law doesn’t permit on-line education, Ohio lawmakers were considering House Bill 532, which would give aspiring licensee’s the option of taking the courses in the classroom or on-line. Barwiler contacted her lawmaker, Rep. Terry Boose (R-Norwalk), and urged his support for the bill.
Finally, as noted by Michael McAllister, chief executive officer and founder of The CE Shop, a key benefit of on-line education — aside from accessibility and affordability — is that it gives the student an opportunity to learn the information at a pace they’re comfortable with. “Distance education allows for a new body of knowledge to be absorbed in manageable segments as determined by each individual learner, something that is particularly vital for those entering the real estate profession who must learn complex license law. The benefits of distance learning become even more important for those with language barriers or learning disabilities.”
It should be noted that McAllister offered this opinion despite the fact that The CE Shop is not an Institution of Higher Education and, therefore, cannot offer on-line pre-licensing classes in Ohio.
If you have any further questions about HB 532 please feel free to contact OAR at firstname.lastname@example.org.