The Professional Standards Process and REALTOR® Code of Ethics
Boards and Associations of REALTORS® are responsible for the enforcement of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics – © 2018 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, All Rights Reserved. This Code establishes obligations that may be higher than those mandated by law and only REALTORS® are subject to the higher standards of the Code of Ethics of the National Association of REALTORS®.
Many times difficulties between real estate professionals (whether REALTORS® or not) are the result of a misunderstanding, miscommunication or lack of adequate information/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 you have taken these steps and still feel you have a grievance, you may want to consider filing an ethics complaint.
Consider the following information before filing:
- If the real estate professional you are dealing with is not a REALTOR®, your only recourse may be the state real estate licensing authority or a court of law.
- Boards and Associations of REALTORS® determine whether the Code of Ethics has been violated (not whether the law/real estate regulations have been broken – the licensing authorities or the courts can only make those decisions).
- Boards and Associations of REALTORS® can discipline REALTORS® for violating the Code of Ethics. Typical forms of discipline can include mandated attendance at courses/seminars (designed to increase the understanding of ethical duties or other responsibilities), a reprimand, a fine, or suspension or termination of membership for serious or repeated violations. Boards/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.
Please contact Marilyn Murphy, Membership Development Advisor and Professional Standards Administrator for South Shore Realtors® at 781-826-5139 or MMurphy@southshorerealtors.com if you have any questions or to confirm that the Real Estate Professional you have a complaint against is a REALTOR® member that the South Shore Realtors® has jurisdiction over.
Arbitration, a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), is a legal technique for the resolution of disputes outside the courts. The parties to a dispute refer it to one or more persons (the “arbitrators”, “arbiters” or “arbitral tribunal”) on whose decision (the “award”) they agree to be legally bound (for both sides). A request for Arbitration must be filed: 1) after the real estate transaction giving rise to the dispute has been completed; 2) within six months (180 days) after the facts constituting the Arbitration matter could have been known in the exercise of reasonable diligence; 3) by the broker of the real estate agency.
Mediation vs. Arbitration
Mediation is NAR’s preferred method of resolving disputes. While Arbitration can be time-consuming and costly, there is another choice… mediation, which is a simpler and easier process. It is an efficient and economical mechanism to resolve arbitration disputes.
With mediation there is no cost, little delay, no hearing panel, use of one or two neutral/impartial mediators and the solution is just as binding and enforceable as arbitration. Both parties decide to enter the process, can leave the process at any time (at which time a hearing can be convened). The parties have complete control over the outcome, as opposed to relinquishing that authority to a third party.
The Ombudsman Program in its simplest definition is informal telephone mediation. In some cases, it can address and solve minor complaints from the public. It can also solve inter‐REALTOR® conflicts before they become serious problems. Like a mediator, an ombudsman helps parties find solutions. Ombudsman Procedures adopted by the South Shore REALTORS® are intended to provide enhanced communications and initial problem-solving capacity to the professional standards process. An Ombudsman can respond to general questions regarding real estate practices, transaction details, ethical practices and enforcement issues.View our Ombudsman Overview Document
STEPS FOR FILING AN ETHICS COMPLAINT
1. Make sure the person you are filing against is a REALTOR®. Call the South Shore Realtors® at 781-826-5139 to find out. If the person you would like to file a complaint against is not a REALTOR®, you must contact the Massachusetts Division of Licensure at 617-727-2373.
2. If the person is a REALTOR®, make sure that you file the Ethics complaint with the appropriate Association. Contact the local REALTOR® Association the person you wish to file against is a member of.
4. When completing Form E1 you are the complainant and the REALTOR® you are filing the complaint against is the respondent. Write in the Article(s) of the Code that you believe were violated. Provide all of your contact information listed on the Form E1.
5. Write a detailed description of the events and send in any additional documentation that is relevant to your complaint.
6. To file: send in Form E1, your detailed description and your supporting documentation to the South Shore Realtors®, Attn: Professional Standards Administrator, 48 Schoosett Street, Pembroke, MA 02359
7. If the circumstances giving rise to this complaint involve civil or criminal litigation or are in any proceeding before the MA Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers or Salespersons (or any other state or federal regulatory or administrative agency) the complaint may be held in abeyance until these matters have been resolved.
8. Once your Ethics complaint has been received you will be notified by email. At that time South Shore Realtors® will schedule a Grievance Committee meeting to review your complaint. You will be notified of their findings and the next step in the process within 48 hours of their meeting being held.
9. If you have any questions, please contact Marilyn Murphy, Membership Development Advisor and Professional Standards Administrator at 781-826-5139 or MMurphy@southshorerealtors.com or Chief Executive Officer and Professional Standards Administrator Rachel Tristano at RTristano@SouthShoreRealtors.com
STEPS FOR FILING AN ARBITRATION REQUEST
The information and links on this page pertain to the arbitration of disputes as defined in Article 17 of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics and related Standards of Practice.
1. A Request for Arbitration must be filed with South Shore Realtors® (Association) within 180 days after the closing of the transaction, if any, or within 180 days after the facts constituting the arbitrable matter could have been known in the exercise of reasonable diligence (whichever is later).
REQUEST AND AGREEMENT TO ARBITRATE FORM A1 FOR MEMBERS
REQUEST AND AGREEMENT TO ARBITRATE FORM A2 FOR NON-MEMBERS
When the dispute involves REALTORS from other local Boards/Associations, REQUEST AND AGREEMENT TO ARBITRATE INTER-BOARD ARBITRATION FORM A1
2. The Request, Response and Agreement to Arbitrate must be signed by the Designated REALTOR® (principal) of the firm or their designated representative. The designated representative must be a principal, partner, corporate officer or trustee of such firm or the individual responsible for the operation of the firm’s real estate activity within the office involved in the particular dispute in order to act on behalf of such Designated REALTOR®. A client of a REALTOR® may invoke the facilities of arbitration at the Association.
3. The Request and Response forms (and statement) must be signed and dated affirming that the information is true to the best of their knowledge, that the matter complained of is not the subject of civil or criminal litigation and must include a factual statement detailing the basis of the complaint.
4. The Request and Response must be typewritten and the Request and Agreement to Arbitrate and Response and Agreement to Arbitrate Forms must be signed and dated by the Complainant (party filing the Request) or Respondent (party being filed against).
5. The original Request (or Response) Form and typed detailed description of the events, plus any documentation that is relevant to your request should be sent to the Association with a $250 filing fee deposit ($500 if Inter-Board) and seven collated and stapled copies. Mail/deliver to South Shore Realtors®, Attn: Professional Standards Administrator, 48 Schoosett Street, Pembroke, MA 02359. Once received you will be notified via email.
6. Both the Complainant and Respondent must each pay a $250 filing fee (a $500 filing fee is required for Inter-Board Arbitration Requests). If the parties attempt mediation and resolve their dispute the filing fees will be refunded to the parties. If mediation is not attempted or unsuccessful, the entire fee will be retained by the Association to offset the cost of processing the Arbitration.
7. Once the Association receives the Notice of Request for Arbitration, the Respondent will have 15 (fifteen) days after receipt of a copy of the complaint to submit a reply. Once a reply is received, a copy will be sent to the Complainant. At that time, if mediation has not yet been attempted and both parties agree to mediate, the complaint and reply will be sent to a mediation officer who will contact both parties and set a date for mediation. If the mediation is successful the case will be closed. If it is not successful, a hearing panel will be appointed and both parties will be officially notified 21 (twenty-one) days in advance of the time and place of such hearing. If no reply is received from the Respondent within 15 (fifteen) days from the date that the complaint is served, the hearing panel may set a date, time and place of the hearing and the charges may be taken as true, by default.
8. All parties to the action may be represented by legal counsel, IF written notice of their intention to be represented by counsel is received no less than 15 (fifteen) days prior to the hearing. Such notice will include the name, address and telephone number of the attorney. Failure to provide this notice may result in a continuance of the hearing, if the Hearing Panel determines that the rights of the other party/parties require representation.
9. It is the responsibility of each party to arrange for witnesses to be present at the time and place designated for the hearing. Each party must provide a list of the names of witnesses he/she intends to call at the hearing and to all other parties not less than 15 (fifteen) days prior to the hearing date. Each party shall arrange for their witnesses to be present at the time and place designated for the hearing. Witnesses may ONLY attend the hearing for the purpose of testifying and cross examination. Following their testimony and cross examination, witnesses are excused from the hearing.
10. An Official Notice of Hearing will contain the names of the members of the Tribunal who will hear the case and will be accompanied by an Outline of Procedure. Not less than 10 (ten) days prior to the date of the hearing, either party may file a written request for disqualification of any member for any of the following reasons:
- Is related by blood or marriage (to the fourth degree) to either Complainant or Respondent.
- Is an employer, partner, employee or in any way associated in business with either Complainant or Respondent.
- Is a party to the dispute.
- Knows of any reason acceptable to the Hearing Panel which may prevent him/her from rendering an impartial decision.
11. The Complainant and Respondent will be given the opportunity to give opening and closing statements, testify, present evidence and witnesses and cross-examine witnesses. At the conclusion of the Hearing, the Panel will go into Executive Session and will award the amount in the dispute to one party only (the award may not be divided between or among parties).
12. Within 30 (thirty) days of receipt of the Award of Arbitrators, the non-prevailing party either must pay the amount in dispute to the prevailing party or deposit the amount with the Association (to be held during an application for procedural review). The non-prevailing party must file a request for procedural review within 20 days of receipt of the Award of Arbitrators. The procedural review must allege procedural deficiencies or other irregularities that constitute deprivation of due process such as fraud, coercion, bias, prejudice, evident partiality, etc.
It is common for Grievance Committee and Hearing Panel members to request specific information as part of a complaint and response. Complainants and Respondents are encouraged to include copies of the following documents, if available:
- Agency Disclosure forms
- Offers to Purchase
- Purchase and Sales Agreements
- Deposit Checks
- Show Slips
- MLS Sheet
- Phone Logs
- Open House Logs
PLEASE DO NOT SUBMIT ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS to the Association as part of your Request or Response. Although parties are encouraged to bring original documents to a hearing for examination by the Hearing Panel, the Association will not accept liability for the safekeeping of original document(s).