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You may have heard commentary recently about the Texas Appraiser Licensing & Certification Board (TALCB)’s Standards and Enforcement Services (“SES”) Division, which may have raised some questions.  Here is some helpful information about the complaint process:

What is the complaint resolution process?

The complaint resolution process is a collaborative effort between the assigned investigator, the legal assistants, and attorneys.  The investigator reads the complaint, and response, and performs necessary research.  The appraisal report, which is usually the subject of the complaint, is then reviewed under Uniform Standards of Appraisal Practice (“USPAP”) Standard Rules 3 and 4 so attorneys can decide the appropriate way to resolve it.  Roughly 66—75% of complaints are dismissed and less than 1% of all appraisers are disciplined.

What is the process for evaluating an investigator’s draft report?

Investigators prepare a written report with their findings.  This is based on collected evidence, including documents or witness statements.  The report goes through quality control, including other investigators, the chief investigator, the assigned attorney and the director of the SES Division.

What is an extraordinary assumption (“EA”) and do investigators make extraordinary assumptions when they complete an investigative review?

USPAP says an extraordinary assumption is: “an assignment-specific assumption as of the effective date regarding uncertain information used in an analysis which, if found to be false, could alter the appraiser’s opinions and conclusions”.  Investigators do employ one EA listed on the report’s first page: “I have employed the extraordinary assumption that information provided in the appraisal report and work file, which was not verified by the information currently available to me, is true and accurate”.  That is the only EA used. Investigators do reach conclusions.  These are reasoned determinations based on relevant evidence and logic. If you are interested in more discussion on this topic, please attend our upcoming Facebook live town hall on Thursday, July 26, 2018, at 1 p.m.

What is circumstantial evidence (“CE”)?

Black’s Law Dictionary says CE is: “[e]vidence based on inference and not on personal knowledge or observation”.  Since TALCB Staff was not present during the appraisal, they often rely on CE to resolve cases.  CE is not somehow inferior; it is regularly used in civil, criminal and regulatory cases nationwide.  In fact, most cases rely heavily on CE because it’s rare to have direct evidence (eyewitness testimony, video or audio, confession etc.).  If you are interested in more discussion on this topic, please attend our upcoming Facebook live town hall on Thursday, July 26, 2018, at 1 p.m.

What are investigative conferences (“IC”) and what purpose do they serve?

An IC is a meeting between the Board Staff and the Respondent (and their attorney or consultant, should they wish to bring them).  It is an informal meeting which allows the investigator to ask questions, gain insight into the appraiser’s reasoning and logic.  It also gives the appraiser an opportunity to share thoughts, opinions, and questions with the Board Staff.  Many complaints are resolved without discipline using ICs. Talking with the people often produces positive results for everyone.

Who decides whether disciplinary charges are filed, what they will be and what sanctions will be requested? How does the process work?

After the investigation, an attorney is assigned and consults with the investigator to determine the appropriate case resolution.  That resolution is offered to the appraiser, who may accept it, reject it or make a different proposal.  If no agreement is reached, it goes through the hearing process, and a judge will hear both side’s evidence and witnesses.  The judge makes findings of what happened in a written Proposal for Decision (“PFD”).  This PFD also has legal conclusions about whether the law or USPAP was violated and any recommended sanctions.  The Board decides whether to accept, reject or modify the judge’s PFD at their quarterly meetings.  Hearings are very infrequent since most complaints (66—75%) are dismissed and most others are resolved by written agreement.