Question Details

Jack, Home Buyer in 91304

What happens when an agent is reported to the local Board of Realtors for unethical conduct? I keep seeing

Asked by Jack, 91304 Fri Feb 20, 2009

realtors advise people who have run into an unethical agent to report them. But does anything actually happen to the agent?

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Different Realtor Associations may have variations on procedures, but ALL Realtors subscribe to, and have taken an oathto uphold the Code of Ethics. A Realtor is a licensee who is a member in good standing with the National Association of Realtors, as well as a member of the Realtor Association in your state and your region. Not all people who are licensed in real estate are Realtors. Assuming the agent in your question IS a Realtor, then here's a probable list of actions that will occur after the local Association of Realtors receives an ethics complaint from either a member of the public or another Realtor about another Realtor(s):
The person making the complaint is sent proper forms to fill out stating about whom the complaint is being made and a copy of the 2009 Realtor Code of Ethics. The Complainant is asked to list the Article(s) the Realtor may have violated, reasons why they think there was a violation (i.e. what happened) and any supporting evidence the complainant wants to add to support their claim.
The Association will send a copy of the complaint to the Realtor in question (called the Respondent) who will be served notice that a complaint was made and to make a formal Reply to the Association as to the charges made, as to the facts as stated by the person making the complaint and to add any supporting evidence (s)he may wish to add.
Once compiled, the case goes before a screening committee, called the Grievance Committee, made up of Realtor members of that local Association. Their job is to view the case, the evidence presented by both parties and to decide if a POSSIBLE Code of Ethics violation has occurred. If not, the case dies there. If so, then the case is moved up to the Associations "Supreme Court", called the Professional Standards Committee (also made up of Realtors, but they have to hold a Broker's license, be approved by the Board of Directors and have substantial experience and a spotless record). A formal hearing date will be set and both parties will be asked to appear with any witnesses, possible attorneys (not too often but it's their right), any additional evidence and to present their case before the hearing panel. In cases where the person who made the complaint cannot or will not appear before the Professional Standards Committee to make their case, sometimes a member of the Grievance Committee will carry the complaint and the case forward to the Professional Standards Committee for the original complainant).
The Professional Standards Committee will hear all evidence, testimony and cross-examinations; will ask any other questions rthey deem appropriate to the case, then will adjourn the hearing. They will meet in Executive Session to render their decision. If found guilty of an ethics violation(s), there are several penalties the Professional Standards Committee can impose, subject to the approval of their findings and penalties suggested by the Association's Board of Directors.
It is a formal process with real consequences to offending Realtors. These matters are taken seriously by all parties. One bad Realtor can reflect on all Realtors- and the Code of Ethics is designed to protect the public and to set standards of behavior expected by ALL who carry the Realtor membership designation.
The local Association will be happy to guide you through the process and will answer all questions you may have about the process and what you need to do.
If you feel a Realtor is guilty of unethical behavior, DO NOT hesitate to lodge a complaint. Realors who have worked hard all their professional careers want offending Realtors to answer for their transgressions as, believe me, they are in the great minority.
For your convenience, here's a link to the Code of Ethics on the Realtor.org web site.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 20, 2009
Agents are responsible to two entities. The state has a licensing board which enforces the laws which protect real estate consumers. Unethical behavior would be reported to the licensing board if it involved misrepresentation of facts, mishandling money, etc.

In addition, most agents (but not all) are members of the National Association of REALTORS® and subscribe to a strict Code of Ethics. Because the REALTOR® Code was created in 1913 and was used as a model for most states’ real estate laws, you will find many common elements regarding consumer protection. Apparent unethical behavior would be reported to the agent’s local Board of REALTORS®.

There is nothing to prevent submitting a complaint to both entities; i.e., the licensing board and the Association of REALTORS®. In such cases, the Association would defer hearing the matter until the state’s investigation/hearing process was complete.

The state can suspend or revoke an agent’s license; and/or it can demand that the agent reimburse a consumer for damages. The REALTOR® Association can impose sanctions or direct that an agent forfeit a commission. It cannot impact an agent’s license, but it could, as an extreme measure, expel the member from the Association—which usually would eliminate that agent’s access to the Multiple Listing Service. Expulsion is very rare.

Be aware that any complaint about an agent (ethics, lack of proper representation, handling of money) is a very serious matter. You will be asked to provide extensive, detailed documentation. Be unemotional in your presentation and stick to facts which you can verify, or show that a reasonable person would have interpreted something in the same way you did.

Be assured that if you have a valid issue, it will be heard and evaluated. The real estate profession prefers to police itself. But the regulators of the industry are prepared to step in, whenever necessary.

-Paul-
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 20, 2009
Actually, nevermind my posts below. I think this warrants posting as new question.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 20, 2009
As an addendum to my last post, we do have documentation that there was only a 45 minute lapse between the request for a best offer and notification that the house was under contract with someone else. Again, thanks all for your insight.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 20, 2009
Thanks for your responses.

If you would, please assist me in how I should attempt to document the suspected unethical behavior. Our agent suspects the listing agent of sitting on our offer for a few days and then using it to get another party to up their offer. The events played out as follows:

1. We had submitted an offer on a foreclosure and got a counter offer well before 24 hours passed.
2. Upon reading the counter offer, we noted the original contract was not written as we directed (and we failed to catch it before signing) so we withdrew our offer and submitted a new offer (written as we originally intended but with a larger--actually quite large--earnest deposit to show we weren't just messing around) the next day, which was a Friday morning.
3. We had the sense that this angered the listing agent because she stopped returning calls and did not even acknowledge the offer until the following Wednesday.
4. Within an hour of acknowledging the offer, she sends an email informing us there were other offers and that we needed to submit our best offer.
5. 45 minutes after getting the request for our best offer, our agent gets a fax from the listing agent stating that they accepted the other party's offer (our agent hadn't even had a chance to see the best offer request yet).
6. We suspect the other party was either given more time to submit a best offer, or that as soon as they upped their offer the listing agent knocked us out of the deal without giving us a reasonable time to respond.

Basically our agent suspects two forms of misconduct. Firstly, failing to submit our offer in a timely manner, and secondly, failing to treat all offers fairly.

But I don't see how we could document these events since it seems it that the listing agent is the only one with access to any documents we'd need to prove our case. Even if we asked for proof that our offer was submitted in a timely manner (or at all) couldn't she easily manufacture these?

Many thanks for your input.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 20, 2009
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