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What is a Real Estate Special Commissioner in Arizona?

The short answer is that they are licensed real estate agents and/or brokers who are appointed by the court to initiate and complete the sale of real property as ordered by the court.

When would a person need a Real Estate Special Commissioner or Special Master? 

Most of the time, they get appointed in Family Court cases, but there may be instances where there is a need in other court departments, such as in the case of bankruptcies or enforcement of a judgement.

Applicable Legal Authority

Rule 95(g) of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure, implemented January 1, 2006, allows for the appointment of a Real Estate Special Commissioner to assist the parties with disposition of community real property when the parties are otherwise unable to agree on such issues.

The Family Department used to maintain a roster of qualified individuals for appointment to act as real estate special commissioners, but as of 2020 the Family Department stopped creating those rosters.  Instead the litigants themselves are free to stipulate to the appointment of a special evaluator or special real estate commissioner.  If the parties cannot or will not agree, there is a process on how they can seek a specific appointment through the court.

Basic Requirements

For a Special Commissioner to be appointed, the individual must

  1. Be licensed in AZ in good standing for 3 years preceding the date of the application pursuant to Title 32 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 2123
  2. Successfully complete a mandatory online orientation as well as periodic education sessions as the Court may direct.
  3. Have a minimum of five transactions each year.
  4. Be willing to accept appointments and comply with court orders.
  5. Acquire Errors and Omissions insurance to cover any transaction which is the subject of the court appointment.

Selection and Appointment

A Special Commissioner can be appointed if parties or their counsel, if represented, agree upon a Special Commissioner to provide the type of service ordered by the court.

If the parties or their counsel, if represented, cannot agree on a Special Commissioner the parties shall each exchange three names, and each party shall be entitled to strike two names from the other party’s list. The parties then submit one joint list to the court of the two or more remaining Special Commissioners without identification as to who has nominated the Special Commissioners on a court approved form.  The Court then selects one of the names.

Here is the specific procedure if the parties can’t agree:

  • Step One: Each party shall identify three nominees that are acceptable to that party to serve in the requested capacity. Each nominee must be qualified to serve in that capacity in accordance with the terms set forth in the Basic Requirements mentioned above. 
  • Step Two: Each party shall provide to the other the name, address and telephone number of each nominated professional.
  • Step Three: Within no longer than ten (10) calendar days following receipt of the list of nominees, each party shall have the right to strike two of the three nominees from the other party’s list and shall provide written notice of the strikes to the other party.
  • Step Four: Within seven (7) calendar days following receipt of the notice of strikes the parties shall submit to the court in a joint filing the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the remaining nominees who were not struck by the other party without designation of which party nominated the remaining nominees.
  • Step Five: The assigned judge shall make the appointment to serve as an evaluator or real estate special commissioner from the submitted list of nominees and then enter the authorization order for that appointment.

NOTE: If a party fails to provide a list of nominees or otherwise fails to engage in this process, it shall serve as a waiver and the court may appoint a professional nominated by the participating party.

If neither of the above systems can be used, the judge will appoint a Special Commissioner on their own motion based on discussion with the parties or absent the above information from the parties.

Compensation

Upon the close of escrow, the Special Commissioner and the selling broker shall be paid a commission consistent with the reasonable and customary fees paid to real estate agents in similar transactions in Maricopa County. The Court may also impose sanctions for a party’s unreasonable behavior, including but not limited to adding an additional 1% of the selling price as compensation for services rendered as a Special Commissioner over and above the reasonable and customary fees paid above.

If you find yourself in need of such a service, please let us know!  We have several team members who have already been named in court documents as Special Masters, and meet all of the qualifications necessary to help you out.  The process is never fun, but the Helping Hands Real Estate Team at Hunt Real Estate ERA has experience and can successfully represent you as well.

If you have any questions, please contact us today at 480 385 9107 or email us at vince@agentswithoptions.com

Source: Superior Court of the State of Arizona Administrative Order 2020-180

http://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/superiorcourt/administrativeorders/adminorders/ao%202020-180.pdf

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