What sets REALTORS® apart from non-member licensed real estate professionals is their voluntary adherence to a strict Code of Ethics.
But even with the best of intentions, sometimes disagreements occur between REALTOR® members and their clients, or even sometimes between REALTORS®.
Boards and Associations of REALTORS® are responsible for enforcing the REALTORS® Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics imposes duties above and in addition to those imposed by law or regulation and which apply only to real estate professionals who choose to become REALTORS®.
Many difficulties between real estate professionals (whether REALTORS® or not) result from misunderstanding, miscommunication, or lack of adequate communication. If you have a problem with a real estate professional, you may want to speak with them or with a principal broker in the firm. Open, constructive discussion often resolves questions or differences, eliminating the need for further action.
If, after discussing matters with your real estate professional or a principal broker in that firm, you are still not satisfied, you may want to contact the local Board or Association of REALTORS®. In addition to processing formal ethics complaints against its REALTOR® members, the Boards and Associations offer informal dispute resolving processes (e.g. ombudsmen, mediation, etc.). Often, parties are more satisfied with informal dispute resolution processes, as they are quicker, less costly, and often help repair damaged relationships.
If you are unable to resolve the concern, you may consider using the services of an Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman Program
An Ombudsman will try to informally resolve your concern. Often concerns can be resolved with the assistance of a neutral party. Answers to frequently asked questions about the Ombudsman Program can be found at Ombudsman FAQ. If you choose to go this route, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. An Ombudsman will respond to you within 24-48 hours depending on their schedule.
Ethics Complaint Process
If, after taking these steps, you still feel you have a grievance, you may want to consider filing an ethics complaint.
Please keep in mind that…
- Only REALTORS® are subject to the Code of Ethics of the National Association of REALTORS®.
- If the real estate professional (or their broker) you are dealing with is not a REALTOR®, your only recourse may be the state real estate licensing authority or the courts. If you are not dealing with a REALTOR®, you can file a complaint with the Indiana Real Estate Commission and/or with the Indiana Attorney General.
- Boards and Associations of REALTORS® determine whether the Code of Ethics has been violated, not whether the law or real estate regulations have been broken. Those decisions can only be made by the licensing authorities or the courts.
- Boards of REALTORS® can discipline REALTORS® for violating the Code of Ethics. Typical forms of discipline include attendance at courses designed to increase REALTORS®’ understanding of their ethical duties and other responsibilities. Additional examples of authorized discipline are a letter of reprimand or warning, and/or an appropriate fine. For serious or repeated violations, a REALTOR®’s membership can be suspended or terminated.
- Please note: Boards and Associations of REALTORS® cannot require REALTORS® to pay money to parties filing ethics complaints; cannot award “punitive damages” for violations of the Code of Ethics; and cannot suspend or revoke a real estate professional’s license.
- The primary emphasis of discipline for ethical lapses is educational, to create a heightened awareness of and appreciation for the duties the Code imposes. At the same time, more severe forms of discipline, including fines and suspension and termination of membership may be imposed for serious or repeated violations.
Complaints are handled through the Indiana Association of REALTORS® Professional Standards process. Ethics complaints must be filed with the Indiana Association of REALTORS® within one hundred eighty (180) days from the time a complainant knew (or reasonably should have known) that potentially unethical conduct took place or within one hundred eighty (180) days after the conclusion of the transaction or event, whichever is later (if the Ombudsman process is invoked the filing deadline will momentarily be suspended).
If you wish to file an ethics complaint, the first thing to do is review the Code of Ethics to determine if a violation has occurred and which Article(s) was violated. Your complaint must cite one or more of the Articles of the Code of Ethics which may have been violated. You should include a narrative description of the circumstances that lead you to believe the Code of Ethics may have been violated. Please use the Ethics Complaint form to file your complaint. Please carefully read the instructions.
Your complaint will be reviewed by the Indiana Association of REALTORS® Grievance Committee. They are charged with reviewing ethics complaints to determine whether a complaint will be referred for hearing. They must ask themselves this question, “if the facts alleged in the complaint were taken as true on their face, is it possible that a violation of the Code of Ethics occurred?” If the answer to that question is “yes” and all other relevant questions have been answered to the satisfaction of the Grievance Committee, they shall refer the complaint to the Professional Standards Committee for a hearing by an ethics Hearing Panel. For information on preparing for the hearing, please click here.
If your complaint is dismissed as not requiring a hearing, you can appeal that dismissal to the Executive Committee of the Indiana Association of REALTORS®, facilitated by the Professional Standards Administrator, Laura Sallie.
If you have any questions, please contact us at email@example.com or call at 812-339-1301.