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Upholding Rules on Harassing Speech

May 4, 2021

Four case interpretations expanding on a REALTORS®’ duty to provide equal professional services were approved by the Professional Standards Committee in addition to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the National Association of REALTORS®. The committee also approved changes to the association’s ombudsman and ethics mediation policies involving public trust and enhanced its policy statement on harassing speech and hate speech. Voting took place on Monday during a session of the virtual REALTORS® Legislative Meetings.

The case interpretations that were approved all pertain to Article 10 of the Code of Ethics, which governs a REALTOR®’s duty to offer equal services to all regardless of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Case interpretations offer examples of the practical application of the Code.

2021 REALTORS Legislative Meetings logo

The four approved case studies are as follows: 

  • Case #10-6: Use of hate speech and slurs on the basis of race 
  • Case #10-7: Use of harassing speech on the basis of political affiliation 
  • Case #10-8: Use of harassing speech against protestors 
  • Case #10-9: Use of speech or ideas included in religious doctrine 

All four case interpretations are effective upon approval by the Professional Standards Committee and publication on nar.realtor.

Use of ombudsman or ethics mediator when public trust is involved

The Professional Standards Committee also moved to strike all references from NAR’s local and state association ombudsman policy and from the ethics mediation section of NAR’s Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual that barred ombudsmen and ethics mediators from discussing alleged violations of the public trust, such as misappropriation of client or customer funds or property, discrimination against the protected classes under the Code of Ethics, or fraud. The committee collectively voiced the opinion that ombudsmen and ethics mediators should not be prohibited from discussing these issues.

The committee’s revisions to the ombudsman and ethics mediation policies will need approval from NAR’s Board of Directors but will not go before the Board during the current meetings. NAR’s errors and omissions insurance carrier must be consulted first on whether NAR’s policy could be expanded in 2022 to cover this type of activity under both programs. If the insurance carrier does agree, the revisions will be reported to the Board of Directors in November 2021 for their approval.

Amendments to Appendix XII to Part Four of the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual were also approved by the committee.