Complaint Process

REALTOR® Code of Ethics & Complaint Process

Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the National Association of REALTORS®

To Download the Code of Ethics effective January 2017, click HERE

Before You File a Complaint

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 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 contact LGAAR. In addition to processing formal ethics complaints against its REALTOR® members, LGAAR offers 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, after taking these steps, you still feel you have a grievance, you many want to consider filing a formal ethics complaint. You will want to keep in mind that . . .  Only REALTORS® and REALTOR-ASSOCIATE®s 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 state licensing authority or the courts.  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 and seminars designed to increase REALTORS®’ understanding of the ethical duties or other responsibilities of real estate professionals. Additional examples of authorized discipline are a letter of reprimand and appropriate fines. For serious or repeated violations, a REALTOR®’s membership can be suspended or terminated. 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.

Process to File a Complaint

  1.  Call LGAAR at 440.350.9000
  2.  Ask to speak to the Certified Professional Standards Administrator
  3.  The Administrator will explain the 3 Options available to you
  4.  Choose the option that you feel fits best with your situation
  5.  Proceed in accordance with the Option you’ve chosen

Complaint Options

  1.  Ombudsman (informal)
  2.  Mediation (semi-formal)
  3.  Grievance Committee (formal)

Ombudsman Process

  • Simplest process
  • Process is free to consumer
  • Process is over-the-phone
  • Case assigned to Certified Ombudsman by Certified Professional Standards Administrator
  • Certified Grievance Administrator for LGAAR is CEO
  • Certified Ombudsmen for LGAAR includes a rotating roster of 3 LGAAR REALTOR members
  • Certified Ombudsmen are certified by Ohio Association of REALTORS or National Association of REALTORS
  • Ombudsman contacts Complainant
  • Ombudsman asks what Complainant wants as outcome to resolve issue
  • Ombudsman contacts Respondent
  • Ombudsman works between Complainant and Respondent to resolve issue in accordance to Complainants desired outcome
  • Ombudsman reports to Professional Standards Administrator that the case was resolved or that the Complainant has requested Mediation or a Hearing

Mediation Process

  • Semi-formal process
  • Process is free to consumer
  • Process is over-the-phone and includes an in-person meeting with certified Mediator and Complainant and Respondent
  • Complainant completes and signs Mediation Agreement
  • Respondent signs Mediation Agreement
  • Case assigned to Certified Mediator by Certified Grievance Administrator
  • Certified Grievance Administrator for LGAAR is CEO
  • Certified Mediators for LGAAR includes a rotating roster of 2 Mediators
  • Certified Mediators for LGAAR may include those certified by OAR/NAR, legal counsel, govt offices, etc.
  • Mediator contacts both parties to schedule an in-person meeting
  • Mediator reports to Professional Standards Administrator that the case was resolved or that the Complainant has requested a Hearing

Grievance Committee Process

  • Formal process
  • Process fee is free to consumers
  • Complaint is first reviewed by the Grievance Committee
  • Grievance Committee determines if paperwork submitted by Complainant is in proper form
  • Grievance Committee may dismiss the case, request additional information, or forward to Professional Standards Committee via the Professional Standards Administrator
  • Grievance Administrator uses NAR’s process in accordance to the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual for all timeframes and steps of the process; this manual can be found on NAR’s website in its entirety
  • Respondent is notified of the date in which their responses regarding the case are due to the Professional Standards Administrator
  • Chair of the Professional Standards Committee sets the date for the Hearing and chooses 2 other panelists and one alternate for the Hearing
  • Both parties are notified of the date in which the Hearing will be held at the LGAAR Office
  • Hearing takes place and Panel convenes to Executive Session to determines the resolution to the case

Any professional standards complaint received, as well as any material related to a complaint received, is considered to be strictly confidential in nature. Ombudsman, Mediators, Grievance and Professional Standards committee Members are responsible for ensuring due process is afforded to all parties, whether it be informal (Ombudsman or Mediation) or formal (Panel Hearing enforce the Code of Ethics or an Arbitration of commission dispute).

References