Legal Update: What Constitutes "Conspicuously Displayed?"

On January 1, 2023, the law related to license and team advertising went into full effect. SF 2324 was the “teams bill” that recognized real estate teams in Iowa law for the first time. Additionally, it had this language related to advertising: 

An individual licensee or real estate team shall conspicuously display the name of the brokerage immediately preceding or immediately following the individual licensee’s name or real estate team name in any advertising or information made available to the public.

While the requirement to “conspicuously display” the brokerage name immediately before or after the licensee or team name changes the advertising standard in Iowa, the definition of “conspicuously display” has yet to be defined. In order for the law to be fully implemented, additional clarification by the Iowa Real Estate Commission is necessary. 

However, the combination of the Governor’s executive action in pausing the implementation of new administrative rules and the potential reorganization of the Iowa Real Estate Commission under the Department of Inspection and Appeals has caused uncertainty in when rules clarifying the new advertising standard will be finalized. 

Therefore, IAR is providing guidance on our interpretation of the law and how members can stay in compliance. 

Conspicuously Display 
The two most important components of the new law are the “conspicuously display” and the “any advertising or information made available to the public.” The combination of these two parts of the law create significant changes to advertising standards in Iowa. 

Without a clear definition for “conspicuously display”, REALTORS® must default to how a court of law would interpret that standard. A court would apply a “reasonable person” standard to what is a conspicuously displayed brokerage in advertising. In other words, if a normal, reasonable person were viewing your advertisement, would they be able to identify the brokerage in an obvious and apparent way on the advertising? If the answer is no, then you are likely out of compliance. 

Any Advertising to the Public  
The “any advertising or information made available to the public” is likely the more difficult part of the standard to meet. With no rules to narrow the scope, REALTORS® should be taking steps to include the conspicuously displayed brokerage name in ALL advertising done by a team or licensee. Advertising would include yard signs, websites, text messages, billboards, t-shirts, pens, social media content, print ads, etc. If it is a form of advertisement sent out and viewed by the public, it needs the brokerage name. 

Text Messages
Are text messages a form of advertising? Depending on the situation, yes. IAR recommends that to comply with the new advertising law and as a good business practice, the end of text messages include the licensee’s name, the brokerage, and any contact information beyond the phone number. The easiest way to comply is to set all outgoing text messages to have a “signature block” that includes this information. 

Social Media 
The more complex portion of the rule relates to social media. Does “conspicuously display” mean you need to have the brokerage in every single post on every single social media platform? IAR suggest the following guidelines:

  • Make sure that the brokerage is conspicuously displayed when someone arrives on a social media platform. If a member of the public needs to click through to a different page to find the brokerage, you are not in compliance. 

  • Members should seek to comply with the law by adapting the brokerage display with each respective social media platform. 

    • For example, on Facebook, the naming convention of a business page could be altered to meet the new guidelines. The name could be changed from “John Smith Real Estate Agent” to “John Smith Real Estate Agent – Powered by 123 Realty”. 

    • If a member does not want to change the naming conventions on Facebook, IAR recommends the brokerage be displayed in some capacity on the wallpaper display beyond the profile picture. 

    • For other social media sites, such as Instagram, Twitter, or Tiktok, IAR recommends that the brokerage be prominently mentioned or displayed after your name in the description at the top of the page. 

  • For individual posts on social media platforms from business related pages, IAR believes there is a difference in the content that would trigger the need for the brokerage name on each respective post. If an agent is posting (either in a written format, photo, or video) about real estate or real estate related issues, the brokerage must be conspicuously mentioned and cited. If an agent is posting about non-real estate related issues, such as attending a local Chamber meeting or meeting a friend for coffee, then IAR does not believe the law’s conspicuously displayed requirements is as necessary. However, IAR still believes it is best practice for all posts that come from a social media business profile to include the brokerage in social media posts. 

  • What about agents who post about real estate on their personal page? If a REALTOR® shares a post from a business page that follows the brokerage display requirements, then there are no issues. If you hold yourself out as an agent on your personal page and seek to market property in that manner, then you would need to conspicuously display the brokerage in real estate related posts. 

Implementation and Enforcement of New Standard IREC has not provided guidance on their plans for enforcement of the new law. IAR anticipates that if good faith efforts are being made to come into compliance with the advertising law, that would be sufficient until further guidance in administrative rules are published. Individuals who are blatantly breaking the law and not taking active steps to remedy the situation would likely be the ones facing issues with IREC. 

Further guidance will be provided from IAR when administrative rules are published. 

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