The Preamble of The National Association of REALTOR’S® Code of Ethics references the “Golden Rule” – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Many of the difficulties that arise between real estate professionals stem from a lack of communication, misinformation, or both. When an issue with another real estate professional occurs, members are encouraged to speak with the agent or the principal broker about It right away. Open, constructive dialog can often resolve questions or differences, eliminating the need to take further action, saves everyone involved time, and allows you to move on to the next transaction.
Part of GCAR’s charter issued by the National Association of REALTORS® requires the enforcement of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. If a problem arises with another REALTOR®, the professional services, review processes, and hearing procedures are always available. However, as a real estate professional, it’s often more expedient and satisfying to simply pick up the phone and have a conversation with your fellow professional, the principal broker, or the board office before filing a complaint. This is worth repeating: phone before you file.
If you phone before you file, and discussion does not bring about a satisfactory resolution, NAR’s professional standards complaint process is always an option. In addition to processing formal complaints, GCAR offers informal dispute resolution through its Ombudsman and Mediation programs which are more expeditious can often be handled over the phone, and are less costly and stressful than filing a formal complaint. You play a greater role in the decision-making that occurs in the more informal ombudsman and mediation processes. Use of the ombudsman or mediation programs are also much more likely to mend and/or ease difficulties in professional relationships, and as we all know- real estate is a relationship business.
If after taking one or more of these steps- you still feel aggrieved, your ability to file a formal ethics complaint remains available.
The ombudsman process may also be used in a dispute where a breakdown in communication has occurred, whether a complaint or an arbitration request has been filed. Ombudsmen do not decide who’s right or wrong, rather, they serve as an intermediary who communicates the concerns of one party to the other to resolve misunderstandings and disagreements, so a positive working relationship can be restored. Disputes can be resolved in as little as a few hours or days.
Mediation is utilized in disputes regarding monetary or ethical concerns where an ethics complaint and/or arbitration request may be or has been filed. The mediator works with both parties to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution to a dispute. Both the ombudsman and mediation processes are voluntary, confidential, and free of charge.
William D. North, former EVP and General Counsel of NAR once said of the Code of Ethics “the integrity and value of the Code and its vision of the real estate industry depends ultimately upon its use… If it is used in ignorance, it becomes meaningless, if it is used inappropriately, it becomes irrelevant, and if it is used without moderation, it becomes irrational.”
Many ethics complaints result from misunderstanding or a failure in communication. Before filing an ethics complaint, it is suggested that members make reasonable efforts to communicate with the real estate professional or a principal broker in the firm. If these efforts aren’t fruitful, your association of REALTORS® can share the options for dispute resolution, including the ombudsman and mediation programs and/or the procedures and forms necessary to file an ethics complaint.
*Information presented in this article is the property of the National Association of REALTORS®*