The REALTOR® Code of Ethics signifies the decision REALTORS® make to commit themselves to honor and service. Since 1913, the Code has grown in meaningfulness, and value, and a commitment to integrity, and professionalism.
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The National Association of REALTORS® Professional Standards Committee has developed a list of professional courtesies for REALTORS® to use when dealing with other REALTORS® as well as clients and customers on issues of courtesy or etiquette titled, “Pathways to Professionalism.” The list is intended to promote and encourage more professional conduct on the part of REALTORS®, however, none of the items listed are enforceable as is the Code of Ethics.
Pathways to Professionalism
While the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the National Association establish objective, enforceable ethical standards governing the professional conduct of REALTORS®, it does not address issues of courtesy or etiquette. Based on input from many sources, the Professional Conduct Working Group of the Professional Standards Committee developed the following list of professional courtesies for use by REALTORS® on a voluntary basis. This list is not all-inclusive and may be supplemented by local custom and practice.
I. Respect for the Public
- Always follow the “Golden Rule.”
- Always respond promptly to inquiries and requests for information.
- Schedule appointments as far in advance as possible; call if you are delayed or must cancel an appointment.
- Always schedule property showings in advance.
- If a prospective buyer decides not to view an occupied home, promptly explain the situation to the listing broker or the owner.
- Communicate with all parties in a timely fashion.
- Enter listed property first to ensure that unexpected situations, such as pets, are handled appropriately.
- Leave your business card if not prohibited by local rules.
- Never criticize property in the presence of the owner.
- Inform sellers that you are leaving after a showing.
- When showing an occupied home, always ring the doorbell or knock before entering. Knock before entering any closed room.
- Present a professional appearance at all times; dress appropriately and have a clean car.
- If the seller is home during a showing, ask their permission before using the telephone or bathroom.
- Advise the clients of other brokers to direct questions to their agent or representative.
- Communicate clearly; don’t use jargon not readily understood by the general public.
- Be aware of and respect cultural differences.
- Show courtesy and respect to the general public.
- Be aware of and meet all deadlines.
- Promise only what you can deliver and keep your promises.
II. Respect for Property
- Be responsible for visitors to listed property; never allow buyers to enter property unaccompanied.
- When the seller is absent, be sure to turn off lights, shut windows, and lock doors after a showing.
- Tell buyers not to smoke in listed property.
- Use sidewalks; if weather is bad, take off shoes and boots inside property.
- When a property is vacant, check that heating and cooling controls are set correctly and check the outside of the property for damage or vandalism.
III. Respect for Peers
- Call the listing broker to report the results of any showing.
- Notify the listing broker immediately if anything appears wrong with the property.
- Notify the listing broker if there appears to be inaccurate information on the listing.
- Share important information about a property, including the presence of pets; security systems; and whether sellers will be present during the showing.
- Show courtesy, trust, and respect to other real estate professionals.
Arbitration of Business Disputes
By becoming and remaining a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, REALTOR® Principals are obligated to arbitrate business disputes (both contractual and specific non-contractual issues as defined by Standard of Practice 17-4 with REALTOR® Principals in other firms or clients of REALTORS®. Arbitration proceedings are conducted primarily by each local Member Board/Association of REALTORS®, as defined in Article 17 of the Code of Ethics and Part Ten, Sections 43 and 44 of The National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual.
Initiation of Procedures
A REALTOR® Principal or Client of a REALTOR® can initiate an arbitration by written request to the Executive Officer of the Board/Association or of which the REALTOR® principal is a member or participant in a Board’s MLS where they do not hold REALTOR® membership providing a summary of the nature of the controversy and the monetary amount of the dispute. The determination as to whether an arbitrable matter exists shall be made by the local Board/Association’s Grievance Committee pursuant to those procedures outlined in Part 10, Section 47 of the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual. Appeals of arbitration requests dismissed by the Grievance Committee and alleged misclassification of an issue as being subject to either voluntary or mandatory arbitration shall be considered by the Board of Directors of the local board or by a panel of Directors.
Upon the Grievance Committee’s determination as to whether the matter is properly arbitrable the parties shall be notified (generally within five (5) days) and the matter is referred to the Professional Standards Committee for a hearing.
All requests for arbitration must be filed within one hundred eighty (180) days after the facts constituting the arbitrable matter could have been known in the exercise of reasonable diligence, whichever is later. See Section 47 Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual.
The request for arbitration shall be accompanied by a deposit established by each local board/association of REALTORS® not exceeding $500 (five hundred dollars). When the arbitration request is filed with NYSAR the fee is $500 (five hundred dollars, which may be returned or retained to go toward the costs of the arbitration (local board option) and by a signed arbitration agreement which may be in the form of Specimen Form #A‐1 or From #A-2, Part Thirteen of NAR’s Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual, or in any other form provided or permitted by law. The deposit shall be returned if the matter is determined not arbitrable.
Impartial Hearing Panel – Selection of Panel
The Professional Standards Chairman of each Board/Association procedure shall appoint at least three (3) eligible members of the Professional Standards Committee not successfully challenged the Arbitration Panel to hear the dispute. The Executive Officer or professional standards administration shall serve as Secretary to the Panel.
Challenges to Panel Members
All parties have the right to challenge the qualifications in writing of any potential panel member showing sufficient cause why the arbitrator should not serve.
The party must state the grounds assigned for disqualification. A party shall be deemed to have waived any grounds of disqualification of which he then has knowledge unless he filed the request at least 10 days prior to the hearing. If a majority of the members of the Panel find any automatic ground of disqualification to be present or find any other facts which in their judgment may prevent the member from rendering an impartial decision, or appear to do so, he/she shall stand disqualified.
All notices required in this procedure will be made by personal service or certified mail, return receipt requested or by email (See Part Seven, Section 32) if a board/association has adopted electronic notification.
The Executive Officer (Professional Standards Administrator) shall notify the respondent that he/she must file a written reply in response to the arbitration request within (generally 15) days of the date of the mailing to the respondent. Along with the reply, the respondent shall submit a deposit of $500 when the dispute is submitted to NYSAR. The deposit may be returned or may be retained by the board/association to be used toward the cost of the arbitration hearing (local board option) The Executive Officer (Professional Standards Administrator) shall send a copy of the response not sooner than fifteen (15) days nor later than twenty-one (21) days after mailing notice to the respondent of the request for arbitration.
Notice of Hearing
The Executive Officer (or Professional Standards Administrator) shall inform all parties of the date, time, and place of the hearing established by the arbitrators (Form #A-9, Official Notice of Hearing). The arbitration request and response, if any, shall be provided to the Hearing Panel members prior to the hearing. Such time period shall be (generally 7 days) as established by the Board of Directors. All parties and panel members shall be provided with the Arbitration Guidelines and Arbitration Worksheet.
All parties to the dispute shall present to the arbitrators’ such statements and proof which they deem necessary to support their claims. Proof may be in the form of affidavits or otherwise. The arbitrators shall receive written statements, documents or other papers shall hear oral testimony. The Hearing Panel may receive and consider any evidence they deem material and proper. Parties to arbitration shall be entitled to have legal counsel present at any hearing. Each party is responsible for the expenses of his/her respective counsel.
Conduct of Hearing
The Chairman shall preside at the hearing, which shall not be bound by the strict rules of evidence applicable to judicial tribunals, but instead by the Outline of Procedure for Ethics or Arbitration Hearings and by the Chairman’s Procedural Guide for Conduct of an Ethics or Arbitration Proceeding found in Part Twelve of The National Association of REALTORS’® Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual. The Outline of Procedure For Ethics or Arbitration Hearings (Part Thirteen, Form #A-10 in NAR’s Professional Standards Manual) should be made available to the parties involved in advance of the Hearing.
Right of Arbitration Panel to Release Members from Obligation to Arbitrate
If the arbitration panel determines that because of the amount involved, or the legal complexity of the controversy, the dispute should not be arbitrated, they shall advise the parties; the arbitration shall terminate and the parties shall be relieved of their obligation to arbitrate. In this event, any deposits made by the parties shall be returned to the parties. Further, if the panel determines that an arbitrable matter exists but it is not subject to mandatory arbitration, neither party may be compelled to arbitrate, and the arbitration shall terminate unless all parties voluntarily agree to take part and abide by the decision.
Testimony and Documentary Evidence
Parties to the controversy may testify on their own behalf and present testimony of witnesses, and/or documentary evidence. All parties may examine and cross-examine witnesses, and at the request of any party or on its own motion, the panel, at its discretion, may exclude witnesses or evidence. It shall be the responsibility of the Parties to summon and have their witnesses present at the hearing.
Parties, at their own expense, may have legal counsel present during the hearing. If a party intends to have legal counsel present at the hearing, the party must provide written notice (including name, address and phone number of their legal counsel) to the Panel Chairman and the other party, not less than fifteen (15) days before the hearing date. Failure to provide this notice will not invalidate a party’s right to legal representation. In the event the parties do not provide advance notice of their intention to have counsel, the panel shall take all steps, including continuance of the matter, if necessary, to guarantee the rights of all parties to representation by counsel. The panel may have its own legal counsel present to advise it on issues of procedure and law. Board counsel is not a part of the Hearing Panel and may not take an active role in the conduct of the hearing.
The board/association must record all arbitration hearings. A tape/digital recorder or court reporter may be used. The Panel’s tape recording or court reporters transcript shall be considered the official record of the proceeding. Copies of any tape recording or any transcript prepared from any tape recording or court reporter of the hearing are to be used only for the purpose of a request for procedural review. Any party to a hearing has the right to obtain a copy of the Panel’s official tape recording (or court reporter transcript) subject to payment of the Panel’s duplication cost and any tape/digital recorder duplication will be conducted under the supervision of the Executive Officer (Professional Standards Administrator). If more than one party requests copies of the transcript, the Panel’s costs will be apportioned between or among the parties.
If a party purchases a copy of the Panel’s official tape/digital recording, and subsequently has it transcribed at his own expense, that party must provide a copy of the transcript to the Executive Officer ((Professional Standards Administrator) at no cost. After the Secretary has received a copy of the transcript, the Secretary shall advise the other party that copies are available subject to their payment of the panel’s duplication cost.
The Panel may recess or call for a continuance of the hearing from time to time as necessary or as convenience dictates.
The parties to an arbitration may settle the issue between them by the agreement at any time. In such event, upon written notification to the Executive Officer (Professional Standards Administrator) or, in the event the hearing is in progress, to the panel chairman, signed and dated by the parties, the arbitration proceedings shall be terminated.
A portion, or all, of each party’s deposit, may be retained by the Panel to cover the costs incurred by the Panel up to the point of the settlement of the dispute.
The award of the arbitrators (Form #A‐12, Part Thirteen of NAR’s Manual) shall be made as soon as feasible after the evidence is presented and a copy of the decision will be delivered within 21 days after the hearing is concluded to each of the parties. The Panel’s decision shall be in writing and signed by a majority of its members.
Dissemination of the award shall be limited to the parties involved, on a need to know basis, and to legal counsel and staff.
Request for Procedural Review
Any request for procedural review (which must be limited to issues of due process) must be filed within 20 days after the award has been served upon each of the parties. The request must be filed with the Executive Officer (Professional Standards Administrator) and will be given consideration at the next meeting of the Board of Directors or by a Panel comprised of eligible Directors. If no request is filed, the award becomes final and binding, following the 20‐day period.
If a member fails to comply with an award, the recipient to whom the award has been rendered by the Arbitration Panel shall be advised by the Hearing Panel to seek judicial enforcement and request reimbursement of all legal costs incurred in seeking judicial enforcement. At the discretion of the Board of Directors of the Board may support the request for judicial enforcement in the court and, at the further discretion of the Board of Directors, reimburse the award recipient for costs incurred in seeking judicial enforcement if the courts do not award reimbursement of such costs.
It is the Code of Ethics that separates REALTORS® from other licensees and we take enforcement of the Code very seriously. Ethics complaints may be filed by REALTORS® or members of the public. Ethics complaints serve to educate members as well as provide a disciplinary process when violations have occurred. Any person having reason to believe that a member is guilty of any unethical conduct subject to disciplinary action may file a complaint in writing with the Local Board/Association of REALTORS® that the member holds membership in.