On appeal from the New Jersey Real Estate Commission.
Michels, O'Brien and Landau. The opinion of the court was delivered by Michels, P.J.A.D.
Appellants Elizabeth C. Graham (Graham) and Dorothy T. Ward (Ward) appeal from final administrative actions of the New Jersey Real Estate Commission (Commission), which denied their respective applications for relicensure as real estate salespersons. The denials were based upon appellants' failure to apply for renewal within a period of two years after expiration of their last licenses or to satisfy the statutory educational and examination requirements. N.J.S.A. 45:15-9. We consolidated these appeals because they involve common questions of law.
Having previously met the statutory requirements, appellants Graham and Ward became licensed real estate salespersons in this State. On June 30, 1981 and January 12, 1983, respectively, Graham and Ward returned their licenses to the Commission. See N.J.S.A. 45:15-14. Under the then existing statutory scheme, appellants had five years from the date of surrendering their licenses in which to renew them without having to attend a real estate school and pass an examination.
At the time that appellants allowed their licenses to expire, N.J.S.A. 45:15-9 provided in part:
In [the] event that any person to whom a salesman's license has been or shall have been issued shall fail to renew such license or obtain a new license for a
period of 5 consecutive years or more after the expiration of the last license the commission may require such person to attend school and pass an examination, or either thereof, prior to issuance of a further license. [L. 1977, c. 331, § 2].
However, when Graham applied for relicensure in February 1986, and Ward applied in June 1986, each within the prior five-year time period, the Commission denied their applications, advising them that they would have "to attend an approved school and pass the state examination prior to issuance of a further license." As explained in the Commission's letters to appellants, their applications had been denied as the result of an amendment to N.J.S.A. 45:15-9. Effective May 1, 1984, the amended statute, in pertinent part, provided:
In [the] event that any person to whom a salesman's license has been or shall have been issued shall fail to renew such license or obtain a new license for a period of two consecutive years or more after the expiration of the last license, the commission shall require such person to attend an approved school and pass the State examination prior to issuance of a further license. [L. 1983, c. 456, § 1].
In 1985, N.J.S.A. 45:15-9 was further amended to establish a 90-day grace period in which certain real estate salespersons, whose licenses had lapsed under the previous amendment, could renew their licenses without having to fulfill any additional requirements. This amendment read as follows:
1. Any person who met the requirements under R.S. 45:15-9 for renewal of a broker's license or a salesman's license on April 30, 1984, may apply to the New Jersey Real Estate Commission [for] renewal of the license on or before the 90th day following the effective date of this act and shall obtain the license.
2. The commission shall publish within 30 days of the effective date of this act a notice containing the language of section 1 of this act except that the commission shall supply the date certain of the 90th day following the effective date of this act and a brief description of the reduction of the ...