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Behind Monumental Changes

The Code of Ethics' ban on discriminatory hate speech and conduct reinforces the association's commitment to fair housing.

January - February
2021

At its November 13, 2020, meeting, the National Association of REALTORS® Board of Directors approved recommendations from the Professional Standards Committee that address discriminatory and other harmful speech and conduct.

Most notably, a new Standard of Practice 10-5 under Article 10 of the Code of Ethics prohibits REALTORS® from using harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity, in any context.

When REALTORS® pledge to abide by the Code of Ethics, they must follow the highest principles and ethics of REALTORS® in all their activities. We can’t abandon those principles in a profession dedicated to protecting the best interests of consumers. Put in the simplest terms, each and every one of us is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the REALTOR® brand.

I’m sure you have some questions as you process these new recommendations, which are available in toto here.

Why was NAR looking at this issue? In 2020, NAR and local and state associations received an unprecedented number of complaints about REALTORS® engaging in discriminatory speech and conduct, especially on social media.

How did the changes come about? From June through October 2020, the Professional Standards Committee met twice and its Interpretations and Procedures Advisory Board met five times to consider how to address the issue. The groups developed the recommendations and worked through enforcement questions. They also discussed unintended consequences and the legal defensibility of these actions. As a result, the committee presented a comprehensive package of recommendations to the Board of Directors at its Nov. 13 meeting.

When do these changes take effect? Standard of Practice 10-5 and the application of the Code to all of a REALTOR®’s activities were effective immediately upon approval by the NAR Board of Directors, thereby sending a clear message that NAR condemns discriminatory speech and conduct.

How do these changes benefit consumers? The REALTOR® brand is built on ethics and integrity. When one REALTOR® posts discriminatory speech online or engages in discriminatory conduct, that person’s actions become reflective of REALTORS® on the whole. Left unchecked, those actions become who we are as an organization and reinforce the barriers to homeownership experienced by so many Americans. These new policies are one very impactful way we can advance equity and fairness in the real estate industry.

Approval of these professional standards recommendations amounts to one of the most significant and historic stands this organization has taken to advance fair housing. Our action calls to mind a quote from the writer Maya Angelou that simply but powerfully captures our resolve: “When you know better, you do better.” I am deeply humbled and honored to have been among the outstanding group of volunteers who considered and debated these monumental changes, grateful for the opportunity to serve as chair of the Professional Standards Committee in 2021, and proud of our organization and all REALTORS® who pledge to know and do better for the consumers and the communities we serve.

Mark Mansour

Mark Mansour, a broker from Barboursville, W. Va., is the 2021 chair of the NAR Professional Standards Committee.

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