Boards and associations of REALTORS® are responsible for enforcing the REALTORS® Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics establishes the foundation on how REALTORS® are to operate as professionals in the Real Estate Industry. Not every Real Estate Professional is a REALTOR®; only those who adhere to the 17 Articles of the Code of Ethics which defines a higher standard of professionalism and behavior in three categories: Duties to Customers and Clients, Duties to the Public, and Duties to other REALTORS®. By becoming a REALTOR®, members agree to the duties and responsibilities outlined in the Standards of Practice for each of the 17 Articles, and are subject to be sanctioned if found to be in violation of any article.
The Code of Ethics imposes duties above and in addition to those imposed by law or regulation which apply only to real estate professionals who choose to become REALTORS®. Many difficulties between real estate professionals (whether REALTORS® or not) result from misunderstanding, miscommunication, or lack of adequate communication.
If you have a problem with a real estate professional, you may want to speak with them or with a principal broker in the firm. Open, constructive discussion often resolves questions or differences, eliminating the need for further action.
If, after discussing matters with your real estate professional or a principal broker in that firm, you are still not satisfied, you may want to contact the local board or association of REALTORS®. Many boards and associations have informal dispute resolving processes available to consumers (e.g. ombudsmen, mediation, etc.). If, after taking these steps, you still feel you have a grievance, you may want to consider filing an ethics complaint. You will want to keep in mind that only REALTORS® and REALTOR-ASSOCIATE®s are subject to the Code of Ethics of the National Association of REALTORS®.
Professional Standards Process
If a problem cannot be resolved informally, there is a complaint process for educating and disciplining members who are found in violation of rules.
Anonymous Ethics Complaint
In response to feedback from our valued members, PWAR now accepts anonymous complaints to be filed in limited instances. Complaints will still be filed through the online filing system where complainants can indicate their desire to file complaints anonymously. If anonymous status is accepted you will be notified by the Professional Standards Administrator.
TYPES OF COMPLAINTS:
Article 12 Failure to disclose professional status in advertising or other real estate communications
SOP 12-4 Advertisement offering to sell/lease property without the authority of the owner or the listing broker*
SOP 12-5 Failure to disclose name of firm in advertisement for listed property or for real
SOP 12-6 Failing to disclose status as both owner/landlord and Realtor® or licensee when advertising property in which Realtor® has ownership interest
SOP 12-9 Failure to disclose firm name and state of licensure on Realtor® website
SOP 12-13 Representing that the Realtor® has a designation, certification, or other credential they are not entitled to use
Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution program for broker members which provides a forum for resolving business disputes in lieu of litigation. Arbitrations are completely separate from ethics hearings. Only brokers can file a request for arbitration.
Mediation is a process in which a neutral person-the mediator-helps parties reach a settlement to their dispute by opening lines of communication, objectively evaluating the case, identifying parties’ real needs and finding a solution to address those needs.
No Losers In Mediation – Article
The Ombudsman Program adopted by the Regional Cooperative made up of the Realtor Association of Prince William, Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, Dulles Area Association of Realtors, Blue Ridge Association of Realtors, and Greater Piedmont Area Association of Realtors is intended to provide an alternative dispute resolution service for members of the public or other Realtors with complaints against members of one of the Associations. All local associations are charged with the responsibility of receiving and resolving ethics complaints, and hearing arbitration disputes filed against their members. An ombudsman can respond to general questions regarding real estate practices, transaction details, ethical practices and enforcement issues.
Once the designated Association staff receives a request or intake form for ombudsman services, the information will be sent to an Association ombudsman. The ombudsman will make all necessary contact with the parties in an attempt to resolve the complaint. If the efforts are not successful, the ombudsman will advise the complainant about the next steps in the complaint process should the complainant wish to file a formal Code of Ethics complaint.
The types of dispute that the ombudsman can assist with are those that are:
- Modest monetary amount, not greater than $500.00
- May be solved by providing simple education
- May be solved by providing basic knowledge
Filing an ethics complaint against a REALTOR® is a time-consuming process. PWAR’s Citation System is a way to avoid time-consuming ethics complaints and hearings. If the respondent agrees to the Citation System, he/she would pay the standard, preset fine associated with that Article. If the Respondent does not respond within ten (10) days, the case is automatically forwarded for a full hearing.
For Complainants, there may be less time involved, yet justice will still be served, thereby protecting the industry from unethical behavior. However, if the Respondent elects to have a hearing, the Complainant would need to be prepared to attend.
For Respondents, electing the Citation System avoids an uncomfortable and often time-consuming hearing process while still respecting their due process rights since they may elect NOT to use the Citation System and proceed with a full hearing. The Citation System is as confidential as the hearing process.