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The Ethics Complaint Process at NVAR: How to File an Ethics Complaint


The Preamble of the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice begins by saying, “Under all is the land. Upon its wise utilization and widely allocated ownership depend the survival and growth of free institutions and of our civilization.” These two sentences place in perfect context the massive responsibility assumed by Realtors® in their chosen profession. As members of the National Association of Realtors®, Realtors® agree to subscribe to the Code of Ethics as a voluntary agreement to practice real estate with a higher level of professionalism than what is required by law alone

This Code of Ethics is not simply aspirational – violations carry potential for sanctions. Because the penalties for violating the Code of Ethics can impact the lives of Realtors®, it is important to have a fair and impartial process available to protect both the parties alleging the violation and those accused of one. Because this same process generally only becomes known to those who participate in it, either as a party or as a volunteer on the Grievance or Professional Standards Committees, it is understandable that the ethics complaint process is more of an abstract idea than a finite reality for many Realtors®.

When parties contact NVAR staff to inquire about the ethics complaint process, they are almost always encouraged to seek an alternative means for resolution. Many disputes result from misunderstandings and miscommunications which can then be resolved (sometimes with assistance from a third party) with an explanation and/or an apology. But, as every Realtor® knows, truly unprofessional behavior can cause harm to the clients and customers Realtors® intend to serve while severely damaging the reputations of all Realtors®.

The Grievance Committee reviews all complaints received by NVAR. The members of this committee review the complaints to determine whether the allegations presented by a complainant constitute a possible violation of the Code of Ethics, Regional Rules and Regulations for the SentriLock Lockbox System, or the NVAR Bylaws. The committee may vote to dismiss the complaint, forward the complaint to a hearing before the Professional Standards Committee, or issue a citation to the respondent.

When a complaint is forwarded to a Professional Standards Hearing, the parties are afforded a hearing process that provides both parties a full opportunity to present their case before the hearing panel. This can include submitting evidence, calling witnesses, conducting cross examination, and retaining legal representation. When a hearing panel finds a respondent in a violation (meaning there was clear, strong, or convincing evidence of the violation), sanctions may include fines up to $15,000, additional administrative fees, required education, suspension of membership, etc. While sanctions can be severe, it is important to note that hearing panels follow NAR’s sanctioning guidelines, which recommend lesser sanctions for less serious violations, and higher sanctions for violations that are more serious. Finally, any decision from the Professional Standards Committee will be approved by the NVAR Board of Directors either via an appeal hearing or by their review of the decision and Final Action.

The ethics complaint process exists to protect the public and the reputations of all Realtors®. Prevention of violations via education and exceptional business practices by all Realtors® achieves the same end without involving the disciplinary ethics complaint process. We call that a win-win! NVAR will continue to prioritize supporting education via published resources, live educational events, sales meeting presentations, and more. The Code of Ethics serves to inspire excellence in the real estate industry, and that same excellence protects the livelihoods of all Realtors®.

For more information, please review the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the National Association of Realtors®

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