Advertising With Real Estate Team Names–How Prominent is “Prominent”?

The use of team names by real estate agents has grown in popularity
in recent years, reflecting an increasing trend of agents working in
formal collaboration, but still under the license of a brokerage.  For
example, the fictitious “Jones/Smith Team” at “ABC Real Estate
Brokerage” signifies a group of certain agents working together under
the ABC Real Estate Brokerage broker’s license.  California law
describes a team name as a “professional identity or brand name,” and
provides specific requirements for advertisements that include a team
name.  Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 10159.7(a)(5).  Salespersons should
be careful to adhere to the law’s requirements, and brokers should
ensure compliance.

Team names “shall include, and display in a conspicuous and prominent manner,” (1) the team name and (2) the name and (3) license number of at least one of the licensed agents on the team.  Id.
§ 10159.6(a).  Additionally, the (4) responsible broker’s name (the
name used to conduct business in general) and (5) license number must
also be displayed “as prominently and conspicuously as the team name.”  Id.
§ 10159.6(b).  Lastly, the advertisement cannot contain terms implying
that the team is some sort of entity that is independent of the
responsible broker.  Id. § 10159.6(c).

Parsed down, the law requires that the (1) team name, (2) name of one
of the licensed team members, and (3) license number of that team
member be prominently and conspicuously displayed in advertising.  There
is no apparent requirement that these three components be displayed
with the same prominence or conspicuousness, so long as they
are all prominent and conspicuous.  For example, in a letter-sized print
advertisement, if the team name is in a 36-point font, and the team
member’s name and license number are in an 18-point font, all three
components are arguably prominent and conspicuous, even though not
identically prominent and conspicuous.

With respect to the (4) responsible broker’s name and (5) license
number, though, a strict reading of the law indicates that these two
components must be as prominent and conspicuous as the team
name.  In the example above, the responsible broker’s name and license
number would arguably need to be in a 36-point font as well.  From an
aesthetic point of view, having the responsible broker’s license number,
and perhaps the responsible broker’s name, displayed in the same manner
as the team name may be visually unappealing and may take up precious
space.  Fortunately, there is no hard definition of prominent and
conspicuous.  Perhaps the broker’s name and license number could be made
equally prominent and conspicuous—although smaller—through differently
colored text, stylized logos, boxes around the text, eye-catching fonts,
or other graphic devices.

Real estate salespersons and brokers alike should keep these
guidelines in mind as they prepare and distribute advertising materials.

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