Will Comptroller Office Let Banks ‘Sneak’ Into Real Estate?

WASHINGTON DC – The National Association of Realtors, which has long opposed moves by bankers to sell real estate, says select lenders may soon be able to enter the business thanks to a new ruling by the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).

A division of the U.S. Treasury, the office adopted a regulation Feb. 12 (2004) that “exempts national banks from having to comply with state banking laws,” according to the NAR. It fears the new ruling opens a back door for large, interstate banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo to both get into real estate and avoid the expense and trouble of state licensure.

As a result of earlier lobbying, the NAR persuaded Congress to forbid the Treasury Department from considering regulations allowing federally chartered banks to enter real estate brokerage and property management.

However, than ban will end Oct.1, 2004, unless extended. If Congress then decides to side with banks and permit their entrance into real estate, the OCC ruling would also allow bankers to ignore real estate licensing laws, the NAR argues. “Taken together, these two regulations could create the real estate industry’s worst nightmare,” says NAR President Walt McDonald.

But the OCC issued a press release Feb. 12 claiming its rules were “misunderstood” and (do) “not grant national banks new powers, such as real estate brokerage, nor does it insulate banks from complying with anti-discrimination laws or state laws in such areas as contracts, torts, taxes or generally applicable criminal statutes.”

This article was originally published at Joe Zlomek’s Docket