Associations of REALTORS® are charged with the responsibility of receiving and resolving ethics complaints. This obligation is carried out by local, regional and state grievance committees and professional standards committees.
Many “complaints” received by associations do not expressly allege violations of specific Articles of the Code of Ethics, and many do not detail conduct related to the Code. Some “complaints” are actually transactional, technical, or procedural questions readily responded to.
It is the ECAR Board of Director’s belief that many ethics complaints might be averted with enhanced communications and initial problem-solving capacity at the local level. These ombudsman procedures are intended to provide that capacity.
Role of ombudsmen
The ombudsman’s role is primarily one of communication and conciliation, not adjudication. Ombudsmen do not determine whether ethics violations have occurred, rather they anticipate, identify, and resolve misunderstandings and disagreements before matters ripen into disputes and possible charges of unethical conduct.
The following ombudsman have been appointed by the Board of Directors: Ronald Bates, The Partner Network, LLC, Janis Mallett, William Raveis Real Estate, Gail Palmer, William Raveis Real Estate, Thomas Switz, Switz Real Estate Associates, and Janifer Zacharski, Diversified Real Estate.
All are thoroughly familiar with the Code of Ethics, state real estate regulations, and current real estate practice.
Involving the ombudsman
Persons filing complaints, or inquiring about the process for filing ethics complaints, will be advised that ombudsman services are available to attempt to informally resolve their complaint. Such persons will also be advised that they may decline ombudsman services and can have their complaint referred to ethics mediation (if available), or considered at a formal ethics hearing.
If the complainant elects to use an ombudsman, one of the ombudsmen is assigned to the matter by the Chief Executive Officer. Ombudsmen can field and respond to a wide variety of inquires and complaints, including general questions about real estate practice, transaction details, ethical practice, and enforcement issues. Ombudsmen can also receive and respond to questions and complaints about members; can contact members to inform them that a client or customer has raised a question or issue; and can contact members to obtain information necessary to provide an informed response.
In cases where an ombudsman believes that a failure of communication is the basis for a question or complaint, the ombudsman can arrange a meeting of the parties and to facilitate a mutually acceptable resolution.
If a complaint alleges violations of the public trust (as defined in Article IV, Section 2 of the NAR Bylaws), the matter may not be referred to an ombudsman. In the event the ombudsman concludes that a potential violation of the public trust may have occurred, the ombudsman process shall be immediately terminated, and the parties shall be advised of this right to pursue a formal ethics complaint; to pursue a complaint with any appropriate governmental or regulatory body; to pursue litigation; or to pursue any other available remedy.
If you would like to request the services of an ombudsman, download, complete and return the Ombudsman Request Form.
Confidentiality of ombudsman process
The allegations, discussions and decisions made in ombudsman proceedings are confidential and shall not be reported or published by the board, any member of a tribunal, or any party under any circumstances except those established in the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual of the National Association as from time to time amended.
Resolution of complaints
If a matter complained of is resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all parties through the efforts of an ombudsman, the formal ethics complaint brought initially (if any) will be dismissed.
To watch a 5 video series from NAR about how the ombudsman program works, click here.