Can You Accept That Holiday Gift?
Your guide to RESPA-compliant gifts.
It’s that time of year when settlement providers want to thank you for referring business to them. Here are some tips for whether or not you should accept that gift or say, “No thank you!”
Like everything with the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), there is no clear answer when accepting a holiday gift from a settlement provider.
After all, there is no minimum amount that pertains to gift-giving, according to the National Association of Realtors’ Regulatory Affairs department. Here’s some information they released:
When HUD and state enforcement agencies decide which cases to pursue; however, they will apply reasonable judgment to determine whether holiday gifts are significant enough to be linked to referrals or small enough to fall within the traditional business practice of thanking customers during the holidays.
You also must be aware that some states have statutes that contain a specific dollar amount. You will have to consult your state law and regulations to ensure compliance. Generally, however, here are a few easy holiday examples:
The answer is “yes, you can accept the gift,” if the gift is:
- A small desk calendar
- A coupon for a cup of coffee
- A delicious fruitcake
But the answer is more difficult, for instance, if you receive a bottle of wine. You might want to inquire into the value of the particular bottle before accepting the gift. A $15 bottle of wine at the holidays is probably fine, but a rare $500 bottle or a full case of wine would be considered a RESPA violation if you referred business to the gift giver during the course of the previous year.
One final factor is whether the same gift is being given to every real estate brokerage in town, regardless of whether the office referred business to the gift-giver. Such blanket gift-giving would be less likely to be considered a RESPA violation.
Overall, accepting a gift of modest value that is widely given to brokers in the community should not raise the eyebrows of RESPA enforcers.