Follow the Higher Standard

When the Code of Ethics sets a higher standard than your state license law, follow the Code.

November 1, 2009

Q: When must a licensee provide a copy of a newly created purchase agreement to the buyer?

A: Article 9 of the NAR Code of Ethics is very clear on when copies of agreements must be furnished to the party signing. It says, "A copy of each agreement shall be furnished to each party to such agreements upon their signing or initialing." I interpret this to mean the copy must be given at the same time as the party signs or initials the agreement. But what can potentially create confusion is that license laws are often written more flexibly, using phrases like "as soon as practical" or "within a reasonable time." In my state of Missouri, the license law requires that licensees "timely deliver" copies of agreements that parties have signed, implying something more flexible than "upon their signing or initialing."

This is a good example of how the Code can require a higher standard than license laws. In cases like this one, the higher standards of the Code must be followed by REALTORS®. On the other hand, if the Code of Ethics conflicts with the law of your state, the law overrides the Code.

The requirement to give copies "upon" signing in Article 9 also raises practical issues of where and when agreements are signed. Parties sign or initial agreements in many places—kitchen tables, living rooms, family rooms—where copy machines aren’t available. Unless you know your buyers or sellers have a copying device in their home or office, it’s very important to remember to bring enough copies along when agreements may be signed or initialed so that you have a copy to give to your clients when they sign or initial.

Bruce Aydt

Attorney Bruce Aydt, ABR, CRB, SRS, is a national real estate educator, a Missouri real estate broker, and past chair of the National Association of REALTORS® Professional Standards Committee.