Business Never Stops

The ethics enforcement process gets a much-needed update.

January 21, 2015

Here’s what you need to know.

Real estate is a dynamic and vibrant profession, and REALTORS® demand that both the Code of Ethics and its enforcement processes keep pace with the changing needs of our diverse membership. The Professional Standards Committee answered that call during the past year by introducing creative ways to accelerate the ethics enforcement process while still ensuring it is fair and evenhanded.

The Committee’s focus in 2014 was on making the enforcement procedures simpler, faster, and more efficient. To that end, numerous provisions of the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual were revised.  Here are highlights of the changes that will result in:

  • Shorter time frames for receiving and resolving ethics complaints
  • Limiting the availability of continuances
  • Expanding the use of remote testimony
  • Making e-mail the preferred document delivery tool
  • Requiring continuing training for professional standards administrators to keep them up to date
  • Authority to require violators to stop ongoing unethical conduct without the filing of a new complaint

Administrative clarity goes only so far, and filing an ethics complaint can still seem like a daunting process. So the Committee developed two new policies that will shape the way complaints are handled in the future: a citation policy and mandatory ombudsman services.

The citation policy offers state and local associations the opportunity to process ethics complaints involving less serious offenses without a hearing unless violators choose to have one. In many instances, the citation process can shorten the time from the receipt of a complaint to the final decision from six months or longer to a matter of weeks.

In addition, local association ombudsmen across the country have been working with REALTORS® and consumers to resolve disputes, involving such issues as communication breakdowns, through constructive communication and understanding. Beginning Jan. 1, 2016, every local and state association of REALTORS® will be required to offer ombudsman services to their members and to consumers, either directly or through an agreement with other associations of REALTORS®.

By making our ethics enforcement procedures easier to administer and understand and by implementing new and faster dispute resolution services, we can ensure that REALTORS®’ relationships with consumers and each other are repaired as quickly as possible and maintain the highest level of trust and confidence in our REALTOR® family.

‘Do Unto Others . . .’

The goal of the 2015 Professional Standards Committee is to continue enhancing the enforcement processes and making our members aware that our 102-year-old Code of Ethics provides valuable guidance for the situations we deal with in our business. I hope every REALTOR® will take time this year to reread the Code.

It will make you proud to belong to a professional association whose members are dedicated to providing excellent service to consumers, cooperating with our competitors in the best interests of our clients, and following the Golden Rule, which reminds REALTORS® to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Diane Disbrow is chair of the NAR Professional Standards Committee and broker-owner of Bay Shore Realty Inc., Tuckerton, N.J. She’s been active in the REALTOR® organization at the local and state levels for more than a decade. You can reach her at