Filing a Complaint
Before You File an Ethics 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 want to contact the local Board or Association of REALTORS® where the REALTOR® holds their local membership. If, after taking these steps, you still feel you have a grievance, you may want to consider filing an ethics complaint. You will want to keep in mind that:
- Only REALTORS® 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 estate 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. REALTORS® may also be reprimanded, fined, or their membership can be suspended or terminated for serious or repeated violations. 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.
Filing an Ethics Complaint
Here are some general principles to keep in mind.
- Ethics complaints must be filed with the member's Board or Association of REALTORS® within one hundred eighty (180) days from the time a complainant knew (or reasonably should have known) that potentially unethical conduct took place.
- Your complaint must cite one or more of the Articles of the Code of Ethics which may have been violated. Hearing Panels decide whether the Articles expressly cited in complaints were violated – not whether Standards of Practice or case interpretations were violated. Also helpful is the Interpretations of the Code of Ethics.
Along with the completed Ethics Complaint Form #E-1, your complaint should include a narrative description of the circumstances that lead you to believe the Code of Ethics may have been violated. You must also included copies of all relevant real estate documents in your possession such as Listing Agreement, Purchase Agreement, Agency Disclosure(s), Seller's Property Disclosure, Addendums, or any other documents which support the charges mentioned in your complaint.
When your complaint has been received, a reply will be requested from the named respondent(s). They will have 15 days to respond to your complaint. The Complaint and Response (if received) will be reviewed by the Grievance Committee at their next scheduled meeting.
- If the Grievance Committee dismisses your complaint, it does not mean they do not believe you. Rather, it means that they do not feel that your allegations would support a Hearing Panel's conclusion that the Article(s) cited in your complaint had been violated.
- If the Grievance Committee forwards your complaint for an ethics hearing, that does not mean they have decided the Code of Ethics has been violated. Rather, it means they feel that if what you allege in your complaint is found to have occurred by the Hearing Panel, that panel may have reason to find that a violation of the Code of Ethics occurred.
The function of the Grievance Committee is to make only such preliminary review and evaluation of the complaint as are required to determine whether the complaint warrants further consideration by a Hearing Panel of the Professional Standards Committee.
GMAR's Grievance Committee is made up of brokers and agents just like you. We feel strongly about the enforcement of the Code and attend the Professional Standards Workshop with the National Association of REALTORS® annually to ensure compliance with the Code and to guarantee our membership and the public receive the strongest representation possible.
The National Association of REALTORS® has prepared an FAQ to outline how filing a complaint works. Learn more about who is held to the Code of Ethics standard as well as:
- Before the Hearing
- Preparing for the Hearing
- At the Hearing
Download the PDF: Before You File an Ethics Complaint