The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice
The National Association of Realtors® has established a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice for all Realtors®. The most recent version, approved on January 1, 2018, can be viewed here. If you have any questions about this code, feel free to contact GCAR directly. If you feel that a member of the Greater Capital Association of Realtors® has violated this code, please read the following information to determine your next steps. (A PDF version of the complaint form is available for your download at the bottom of this page.) Please read the following information before filing a complaint.
About the Code of Ethics
The Code of Ethics of the National Association of REALTORS® is a document which is universally recognized by lawyers and laymen as the measure of professionalism in the real estate industry. It does not describe the lowest common denominator of permissible behavior as do the licensing laws of the state. Instead, it outlines the highest ideals of professional performance the public, and other REALTORS®, have a right to expect from REALTORS®.
This means that REALTORS® are held to a higher standard of conduct in the industry than are other real estate licensees. In simple terms, REALTORS® are bound by the Code while other real estate agents are not. While the New York State Department of State issues licenses to practice in New York and enforces the statutes of the law, the National Association of REALTORS® controls the Code of Ethics. In Capital Region, the Greater Capital Association of REALTORS® enforces it.
The first Code was adopted in 1913 as one of the fundamental objectives of the founders of the National Association of REALTORS®. Since that time, it has served as a “golden thread” which binds REALTORS® together in a common, continuing quest for professionalism through the ethical obligations each REALTOR® voluntarily adopts when joining the association. These obligations are based on moral integrity, competent service to clients and customers, and dedication to the public interest and welfare.
Consisting of separate Articles, the Code has been amended many times to reflect changes in the real estate marketplace, the needs of property owners, and the values of society. But its demand for high standards of professional conduct protecting the rights of clients and consumers, and safeguarding the rights of all consumers of real estate services, has not, and will never, change.
The Code of Ethics was amended in 1995 to divide the Code into three sections: duties to clients and customers, duties to the public, and duties to other REALTORS®. These Articles create enforceable obligations and establish a standard of conduct which REALTORS® must satisfy. They govern REALTORS®’ conduct in business, and failure to abide by them may result in disciplinary action.
The Grievance and Professional Standards Committees of the Greater Capital Association of REALTORS® oversee this compliance with the Code of Ethics.
To file a complaint with the Greater Capital Association of REALTORS®, please refer to the Code of Ethics to determine which, if any, articles have been violated. Then complete the E-1 complaint form that is available at the bottom of this webpage.
Boards and associations of REALTORS® are responsible for enforcing the REALTORS® Code of Ethics. 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®. In addition to processing formal ethics complaints against its REALTOR® members, many boards and associations offer informal dispute resolving processes (e.g. ombudsmen, mediation, etc.). Often, parties are more satisfied with informal dispute resolution processes, as they are quicker, less costly, and often help repair damaged relationships.
If, after taking these steps, you still feel you have a grievance, you may want to consider filing an ethics complaint.
Filing an Ethics Complaint
The local board or association of REALTORS® can provide you with information on the procedures for filing an ethics complaint. Here are some general principles to keep in mind.
- Ethics complaints must be filed with the local board or association of REALTORS® within one hundred eighty (180) days from the time a complainant knew (or reasonably should have known) that potentially unethical conduct took place (unless the Board’s informal dispute resolution processes are invoked in which case the filing deadline will momentarily be suspended).
- The REALTORS® Code of Ethics consists of seventeen (17) Articles. The duties imposed by many of the Articles are explained and illustrated through accompanying Standards of Practice or case interpretations.
- Your complaint should include a narrative description of the circumstances that lead you to believe the Code of Ethics may have been violated.
- Your complaint must cite one or more of the Articles of the Code of Ethics which may have been violated. Hearing panels decide whether the Articles expressly cited in complaints were violated – not whether Standards of Practice or case interpretations were violated.
- The local board or association of REALTORS®’ Grievance Committee may provide technical assistance in preparing a complaint in proper form and with proper content.
Many ethics complaints result from misunderstanding or a failure in communication. Before filing an ethics complaint, make reasonable efforts to communicate with your real estate professional or a principal broker in the firm. If these efforts are not fruitful, the local board or association of REALTORS® can share options for dispute resolution, including the procedures and forms necessary to file an ethics complaint.
Complaint Filing Procedure
If you wish to file an ethics complaint with the Association, you need to follow these steps:
- Please read through the Articles of The Code of Ethics before writing your complaint. As you compose your written complaint, cite an Article or Articles that you feel have been violated in any way.
- Complete, sign and date the complaint form. Attach an explanation of the situation surrounding the complaint. Be as specific as possible. State what, when, where, why and how, etc., you think each Article was violated.
- Attach copies of any and all pertinent documents such as listing agreements, purchase and sales agreements, addendums, etc.
- Send the entire package, keeping a copy for yourself, to the Greater Capital Association of REALTORS®, attention: Grievance Committee, 451 New Karner Road, Albany, NY 12205. Your complaint will then be processed.
The basis for filing a complaint against a REALTOR® should be an allegation by the complainant that a REALTOR® violated one or more of the articles of the Code of Ethics of the National Association of REALTORS®.