Process/How to File a Complaint

 

NORTH CAROLINA APPRAISAL BOARD COMPLAINT HANDLING PROGRAM

OVERVIEW

All complaints must be in writing. The Board will not investigate verbal complaints and does not have the authority to open anonymous complaints. In certain situations, the Board may, on its own motion, open a complaint.  See Board Complaints Policy.

Once a written complaint is received, a determination is made as to whether this is an appropriate matter to be investigated by the Board (for example, does the Board have jurisdiction, is it a request for advice). A letter is sent to the Complainant acknowledging the complaint. The Complainant is not a party to the complaint and does not have control over the course of the case, but they may be a witness should a hearing be required. A letter of inquiry and a copy of the complaint is sent to the Respondent requesting a response. Routinely, Board staff requests a copy of the appraisal and the file notes from the Respondent. Upon receipt of the response, the complaint is more thoroughly investigated.

If a decision is made not to open a complaint, it will be reviewed by the Board's Predetermination Committee. The committee will decide whether to investigate the matter or close the allegation.

The scope of the investigation is determined by the type of complaint the Board receives. The Board staff generally takes each case as it is presented and focuses on the allegations made. However, the Board has the latitude to expand and broaden the scope of the investigation as evidence is collected. In addition, the scope of the investigation shall include the determination as to whether additional violations, especially those relating to USPAP should be added to the complaint.

If determined to be necessary, the Board investigator may conduct a comprehensive investigation of the Respondent's other appraisal work. Possible reasons for a comprehensive investigation are: an allegation or evidence of fraud; or a pattern or practice of negligent or intentional violation of standards. During the investigation, documents are requested, appraisals are examined, and witnesses, including the Complainant and Respondent, are interviewed. Often a trip is made to the area where the subject property is located to obtain additional evidence. See Investigations Policy.

The investigation results are presented to the Board at a regularly scheduled meeting for a determination as to whether probable cause exists that the appraiser has violated the Appraiser Act or Board rules. The Board reviews a summary of the facts, possible violations, and a recommended decision. The facts are sanitized so that the Complainant, Respondent, other individuals, and areas of the state involved are kept anonymous. If it appears that a Board member may have some knowledge or bias concerning the case, that Board member will recuse him or herself from the discussion and vote on the matter. At the Probable Cause stage, the Board may dismiss the case, dismiss with a letter of warning, dismiss with the condition that the Respondent take further education ( See Conditional Dismissal Policy ), ask the investigator to conduct additional investigation, or find probable cause and request a hearing. The Respondent and Complainant are notified of the outcome.

If a hearing is held, additional investigation may occur, records may be subpoenaed, and witnesses may be interviewed. Depositions may also be taken. Board counsel attempts to settle each case through a Consent Order, if possible. A Notice of Hearing, outlining the facts and potential violations is sent to the Respondent at least fifteen days prior to the hearing. The issues that may be considered at the hearing are those enumerated in the Notice of Hearing. If a continuance is requested within a reasonable period of time, it is routinely granted, if it is the first such request. The Executive Director has the authority to sign the first Order of Continuance issued in a case. Only the Board has the authority to grant any further continuances.

If the matter is settled, the Consent Order is presented to the Board in closed session at its next meeting. The Board may accept, reject, or propose modifications to the consent order. If the Board approves the Consent Order, it is announced in an open session of the Board. See Settlement Process Policy .

All final decisions which result in at least a reprimand are published in  Appraisereport . See Publication Policy .

If a hearing takes place before the Board and a Final Decision is issued, the Respondent has the right to appeal the decision to Superior Court.

There are other circumstances under which the Board will hear cases. For example, an application may present information that adversely affects an applicant's qualification for registration, licensure, or certification. In such an instance, the Board Committee may approve the application or defer the application for a hearing in front of the Board. See Character Review Policy .

All applicants and licensees are granted due process in any hearings that are held before the Board.

BOARD COMPLAINTS

The North Carolina Appraisal Board has the statutory authority to investigate a complaint against an appraiser upon the receipt of a written complaint against the appraiser, or upon its own motion (a Board complaint).

Staff may request that the Board open a complaint as a result of examination of appraisal reports during the routine course of business or may obtain information regarding an appraiser that the staff believes warrants further investigation.

Some of those instances are:

1. When looking at a sample appraisal report as part of an application to upgrade or an audit, staff may observe potential issues in a report indicating non-compliance .

2. In investigating a complaint against an appraiser, staff may receive a copy of an appraisal report performed by another appraiser on the same or another property that appears to present potential issues of non-compliance.

3. Staff may receive information regarding the fitness or character of an appraiser, such as the loss of another occupational license or a criminal conviction.

Before staff presents appraisal reports to the Board for its consideration, staff will decide whether there is evidence of possible wrongdoing. Some preliminary fact gathering may occur. If the issue is fitness or character of an appraiser, staff may obtain copies of court or agency documents, and may speak with individuals who have information regarding the appraiser.

Board Counsel will recommend the Board open a complaint or investigation. Once the decision is made to open a case, it will be treated as any other case in which a signed complaint has been received.

If, during the course of an investigation, the staff becomes aware that a complaint is related to ongoing litigation the Board will immediately halt all investigation until the staff can confirm that all litigation has ended. After which the staff will resume its investigation as required.


INVESTIGATIONS POLICY

The North Carolina Appraisal Board employs investigators who are state-certified real property appraisers. It may be necessary, on a case-by-case basis, to use other individuals representing other disciplines if circumstances are discovered that require special investigative knowledge outside the scope of services for a real property appraiser. The Board's investigators will concentrate their duties on matters of appraisal that pertain to the North Carolina Appraisers Act, Appraisal Board rules, the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), and state law.

N.C.G.S. § 150B-41(d) states that "An agency may use its experience, technical, competence, and specialized knowledge in the evaluation of evidence presented to it." Investigators will obtain factual information and report that information in a format that may be used by the Appraisal Board in making a determination on the matter before it. In its determination, the Appraisal Board decides if the development, reporting procedures, and communication of assignment results are adequate, appropriate, and reasonable. The work is evaluated in the context of the minimum requirements required by the NC Appraisers Act, Board Rules, and the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). The investigators provide information that the Appraisal Board uses in forming its opinion of whether a violation has occurred.

The investigators employed by the Appraisal Board provide factual information, utilizing objective reporting procedures. Opinions given by the investigators, whether verbally or in writing, will only be those logically flowing from the factual data contained in the investigation file. Such opinions, which may be given in testimony or during discussion of probable cause or consent orders, are not considered to be appraisal reviews.

USPAP defines an appraisal review as "the act or process of developing and communicating an opinion about the quality of another appraiser's work that was performed as part of an appraisal, appraisal review, or appraisal consulting assignment." The beginning of Standard 3 of USPAP states "In developing an appraisal review assignment, as appraiser acting as a reviewer..." The investigators employed by the Appraisal Board do not develop opinions as to the quality of another appraiser's work. They are not given appraisal review assignments as part of their investigations, and they are not acting as reviewers. From the definition of appraisal review and from Standard 3, it is clear that the requirements of Standards 3 and 4 do not apply to appraisers who are employed by occupational licensing boards to investigate complaints against appraisers. Standards 3 and 4, therefore, are not considered applicable to investigative services and testimony by investigators employed by the Appraisal Board, who are also state-certified real estate appraisers. The Appraisal Board has the authority to prescribe the standards of practice for its licensees, as set forth in G.S. 93E-1-10. Board Rule 21 NCAC 57A .0501 adopts certain portions of USPAP as the Board's standard of practice. This rule applies to Appraisal Board licensees when performing the acts and services of a real estate appraiser. It does not apply to licensees who are providing investigation services for the Appraisal Board. The services of the Board's investigators are therefore not subject to the provisions of Standards 3 and 4 of USPAP.

CONDITIONAL DISMISSAL

When the Board reviews the probable cause reports, a decision is made that the case is dismissed, dismissed with a letter of warning, or proceed to a hearing. There are also occasions where the Board determines that the Respondent needs further education in a specific area.

The Board has therefore adopted a disposition where a matter may be conditionally dismissed. Under this disposition, the Board decides that the case against the Respondent be dismissed once the Respondent successfully completes a specified continuing education or prelicensing class. The Respondent is given a finite amount of time to complete the course; if the course is completed, the case is then dismissed with no further Board involvement. If the course is not completed, the matter is brought back before the Board for further consideration.

PUBLICATION OF DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS

All actions except dismissals and administrative warnings will be published in the  Appraisereport.

When the Board accepts a consent order that allows the sanction to be reduced upon some action of the Respondent (e.g., suspension reduced to a reprimand if Respondent completes a standards course), notification is based upon the lesser sanction. If the Respondent does not take the prescribed action necessary to reduce the sanction, then the remaining notification will take place at that time. For example, if the Respondent accepts a two-month active suspension which will be reduced to a reprimand if they complete a standards course by September 1, publication of the Reprimand will be published in the  Appraisereport . If Respondent fails to complete the course by the deadline, the active suspension will be imposed and will then be published in the  Appraisereport.

The publication will contain the Respondent's name, the Respondent's city or town of residence, a summary of the facts, and the disciplinary sanction imposed. No publication will take place until the time for appeal of the Board's actions has passed, if applicable.


CHARACTER REVIEW POLICY

When an application is received by the Board that involves a question of the applicant's fitness for licensure, such as a criminal record or prior disciplinary action, the Executive Director shall review it and if he has any questions about whether the applicant should be approved for licensure, the predetermination committee shall also review it. The predetermination committee will consider summary information about the character issue and decide whether to approve the applicant for licensure or defer the application. If the committee approves the applicant, the application will continue to be processed. If the committee decides to defer the application the applicant shall be notified of his/her right to a hearing before the Board. If the applicant chooses not to request a hearing within 60 days, the application is considered denied.


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