Andrew Wetzel's Musings

June 6, 2017

Filing an Ethics Complaint Explained! Part 1.

Filed under: Uncategorized — awetzel @ 5:01 PM

There are many, many, many licensed Real Estate agents in the United States.  Most of us know quite a few even if we are not licensed.  Many licensees but not all join the National Association of Realtors (NAR) which affiliates them with their state and local associations. For example, I am a member of PAR (the PA Association of Realtors) and SWRA (Suburban West Realtors Association).  You cannot just join one.

While the same laws and licensing act govern agents within a state, only Realtors subscribe to a Code of Ethics and we have done so since 1913.  What exactly does that mean?  Generally speaking, it means we are held to a higher standard than a typical licensee and that there is a system in place to ensure that we comply with the Code of Ethics.  The folks that oversee this function form the Professional Standards Committee and there are various levels of these groups.  The one I want to focus on operates at the local level.

From time to time a member of the public, either a customer or a client (the latter either has a formal representation contract or came to believe that an agent represented them, meaning that they worked for them rather than with them) or another Realtor has reason to believe that a Realtor possibly violated the Code of Ethics.  I say “reason to believe” because the burden to prove that a violation actually occurred rests with them (the “complainant“) and I say possibly because the accused (the “respondent” ) has the right to a full hearing (“due process”) after which a “hearing panel” is responsible for deciding whether what happened was a violation or not.  If so, they can assess a penalty based on established guidelines.

Let me draw a very important distinction.  People often confuse two words:  professional and ethical.  While it is easy to see how that happens, they are vastly different.  Our Code of Ethics provides the underlying “why” as far as what we do whereas the concept of professionalism relates to “how” we do our job.  Simply stated, you could argue that being unethical is unprofessional but the converse is not true:  being unprofessional is NOT inherently unethical meaning that there is no violation of the Code of Ethics.

So, what happens when someone is faced with something that causes them to question an agent’s conduct?  What are the options?  Hopefully they can discuss the situation with the agent or, if necessary, their, manager or Broker.  I have found that open communication usually resolves most problems although there are times when people are not comfortable asking questions, they want to avoid any confrontation and too many may assume that they know what happened when they do not.

If they elect to do so.  There is a process in place to help them resolve their concern.  I will discuss that next.


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