Use the Correct Name in Real Estate Advertising

QUESTION: Ever since I was a child, my friends, coworkers, family, neighbors, acquaintances, and even frenemies¹ have all called me Kevin. It started because I resemble Macaulay Culkin, and after the movie Home Alone, well, the rest is history. On all my real estate advertising, I put the name I’m known by: Kevin McCallister. However, someone filed a complaint  against me in the Commission, and the investigators are asking me questions about why my advertised first name is not the same as my legal name: Mowgli McCallister. Did I do  something wrong? Why is the Commission asking questions about my first name when it wasn’t even part of the original complaint?

ANSWER: When a broker fills out their initial application to be licensed, the Commission expects the broker to provide their legal name, which I presume you did. The name provided is then later used to create the broker’s real estate license, which permits the broker to conduct brokerage activities.

Following your licensure, all your advertising should have used the legal name on your license and not your nickname. Some nicknames can be used in advertising with no problem.  For example, a broker named Robert could use the nickname “Bob” in their advertising since it is unlikely to cause confusion. However, in this case, your nickname comes from a Home Alone character, and your real name comes from Jungle Book. The names are not related in a way where the name on your license can be linked to your advertisements. The  Commission has written several bulletin articles on this point, which you can read here and here for further explanation and examples.

Going forward, you might consider incorporating your nickname into your advertisements in conjunction with your real name, like Mowgli “Kevin” McCallister. And, if you take action  quickly, it might help to show the Commission that you have taken immediate action to come into compliance. Please note that you cannot fix this issue using an assumed name, also  called a d/b/a, unless you are a sole proprietorship. Under the License Law, only firms and sole proprietorships can use assumed names. Assumed names cannot be used by brokers  to mask or alter the name on their license.

¹ A “frenemy” is defined as “a person with whom one is friendly despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry.”

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