THE CODE OF ETHICS
The Code of Ethics was first adopted by the National Association of REALTORS (formerly the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges) in 1913 and was one of the first codifications of ethical duties adopted by any business group, preceded only by the professions of medicine, law, and engineering. The Code ensures that consumers are served by requiring REALTORS to cooperate wtih each other in furthering their clients' best interests.
One of the most important things that sets REALTORS apart from other real estate agents is the REALTOR Code of Ethics. The term REALTOR has come to connote competency, fairness, and high integrity resulting from adherence to a lofty ideal of moral conduct in business relations. No inducement of profit and no instruction from clients ever can justify departure from this ideal. In the interpretation of this obligation, REALTORS can take no safer guide than that which has been handed down through the centuries, the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The Code is designed to establish a public and professional consensus against which the practice and conduct of REALTORS may be judged. Adherence to the Code is an obligation voluntarily accepted by REALTORS to ensure high standards of professional conduct to serve the interests of their clients and customers.
The Code of Ethics is available in several translations. These translations are provided as an informational service to REALTORS and their clients and customers and are available here: https://www.nar.realtor/about-nar/governing-documents/code-of-ethics/code-of-ethics-translations. The Code of Ethics in English is the only official version for purposes of enforcement and is available here: https://www.usamls.net/albemarleareainfo/sei_pdfs/2020-code-of-ethics-and-standards-of-practice.pdf
A REALTOR is more than a real estate agent. REALTORS have training in ethics for both their dealings with the public and within the real estate community. The REALTOR Code of Ethics is the cornerstone of the National Association of REALTORS ethics training. It guides REALTORS and also shows the public the level of commitment, education, and dedication to their profession that each member of NAR possesses.
Many difficulties between real estate professionals result from misunderstanding, miscommunication, and/or lack of adequate communication. If you have a problem with a real estate professional, you may want to speak with him/her and/or his/her broker-in-charge. Open constructive discussion often resolves questions or differences, eliminating the need for further action.
If, after discussing matters with your real estate professional or broker-in-charge, you are still not satisfied, you may want to consider filing an ethics complaint. Keep in mind that:
- Only REALTORS are subject to the Code of Ethics of the National Association of REALTORS and not all real estate licensees are REALTORS.
- If the real estate professional you are dealing with is not a REALTOR, your only recourse may be with the North Carolina Real Estate Commission (919-875-3700), another state licensing agency, or the courts.
- The Association determines whether the code has been violated, not whether the law or real estate regulations have been broken. Those decisions can only be made by the North Carolina Real Estate Commission (919-875-3700), another state licensing agency, or the courts.
- The Association follows strict discipline guidelines when a member is found in violation of an Ethics complaint. Examples of discipline that may be imposed include education classes, letter of reprimand or warning, a fine payable to the Association, suspension of REALTOR membership and/or MLS services, etc. Discipline will NOT include suspension of real estate license - only the North Carolina Real Estate Commission can suspend a license.
What to do if you have a complaint against a REALTOR member? There are three processes available: The Ombudsman Process, filing of a Formal Ethics Complaint, and an Arbitration Request. You will be offered the Ombudsman Process first, which is an optional process. If this does not resolve your dispute, then the Formal Ethics Complaint process will be instituted. If the dispute involves a monetary transaction, you may file an Arbitration Request.
What is the Obudsman Process? The Ombudsman Process is a way to help resolve dispute through constructive communication. Many complaints do not expressly allege violations of specific articles of the REALTOR Code of Ethics and may not concern conduct related to the Code. Some complaints may be transactional, technical, or procedural issues that can be easily and readily responded to. Other complaints are due strictly to lack of communication. These types of issues may be appropriate for the Ombudsman Process.
The role of the Ombudsman is primarily one of communication and conciliation, not adjudication. Ombudsmen do not determine whether ethics violations have occurred or whether a REALTOR maybe entitled to commission; rather, they anticipate, identify, and resolve misunderstandings and agreements before matters ripen into disputes and possible charges of unethical conduct or formal requests for arbitration.
The Ombudsman Process is confidential. All communications made to the Ombudsman, whether written or oral, shall be confidential and may not be disclosed (other than communicating information and results between staff and the ombudsman) to any other person for any reason.
The Albemarle Area Association of REALTORS participates in the Ombudsman Program through the North Carolina Association of REALTORS. For more information on this program and to access the Ombudsman Request Form, click here: https://www.ncrealtors.org/business-center/resolve/. You may also call AAAR at (252) 335-5933 for help with this process.
What is the Formal Ethics Complaint Process? A formal ethics complaint can be filed by anyone - either by a member of the public against a REALTOR or by a REALTOR against another REALTOR. If you believe that a REALTOR member has violated one or more articles of the Code of Ethics, you may file a complaint. Below are some resources to help you understand the complaint process:
Dispute Resolution Flow Chart: https://www.usamls.net/albemarleareainfo/sei_pdfs/ethics_complaint_flow_chart.pdf
Before You File an Ethics Complaint: https://www.usamls.net/albemarleareainfo/sei_pdfs/before_you_file_an_ethics_complaint.pdf
How the Ethics Complaint Process Works: https://www.nar.realtor/code-of-ethics-and-arbitration-manual/part-4-section-20-initiating-an-ethics-hearing
Ethics Complaint Form (E-1): https://www.usamls.net/albemarleareainfo/sei_pdfs/ethics_complaint_form_e-1.pdf
Code of Ethics - 2021: https://www.usamls.net/albemarleareainfo/sei_pdfs/2021-code-of-ethics.pdf
Code of Ethics/Dispute Resolution FAQs: https://www.usamls.net/albemarleareainfo/sei_pdfs/code_of_ethics_enforcement_-_faqs.pdf
What is the Arbitration Request process?
An arbitration request involves a dispute over entitlement to a monetary transaction (e.g., commissions). A customer, client, or principal broker can file an arbitration request. A non-principal broker can also request arbitration with their current or former principal broker. Please keep in mind that:
- Arbitration is not a disciplinary proceeding
- There will not be damages awarded as a result of Arbitration
- Submitting to an Arbitration is not ALWAYS mandatory
- By filing an Arbitration Request, you agree to be bound by the arbitration decision
Arbitration General Instructions and Information: https://tinyurl.com/ArbitrationInfo
Arbitration Request and Agreement (Non-Member): https://tinyurl.com/ArbitationRequestNonmember
Arbitration Request and Agreement (Member): https://tinyurl.com/ArbitationRequestMember
If your situation concerns both Ethics and Arbitration, the Association will handle the Arbitration portion separately. Only when the arbitration is completed will the ethics complaint be considered. Arbitration is always held first.
If you have any problems viewing or downloading the Arbitration Request forms of the Ethics Complaint forms or if you have any specific questions concerning professional standards, please contact Coleen Curtis at the Albemarle Area Association of REALTORS at (252) 335-5933 or firstname.lastname@example.org.