You never can tell when a discussion regarding professional standards for Realtors might pop up. I was watching a Chicago Blackhawks game at a local watering hole with some of my Br Rice alumni last night when the shirt I was wearing started a conversation regarding professional standards amongst Realtors. My brand new button-down, shirt with the Mainstreet Organization of Realtors anniversary logo caught the eye of "Bob" who asked me what was Mainstreet?
I explained to him that is was a local organization for Realtors and that I had just attended a professional standards workshop. By the look on Bob's face it wasn't to difficult to see that he had an issue with Realtors. Before I could say a word he responded with " that's pretty funny, professional standards for Realtors". I asked him why he felt it was funny and he went on to tell me the story of the home he purchased eighteen months prior and was in the middle of litigation.
Being freshly out of my annual workshop and wanting to prove my worth as a Realtor, I replied " too bad it didn't just happen." He asked why that was and I told him that he could have filed a complaint against his agent with Mainstreet if he felt the agent didn't act in a professional manner.
Now I'm not encouraging people to file complaints against their Realtor when transactions aren't exactly as smooth as they would have liked, because face it, the transaction are more difficult than ever. What I am encouraging is that Realtors and consumers alike to contact their local associations if they feel their Realtor didn't act in a professional and/or ethical manner. Bob told me that the public needed to be made aware of their options when these types of things happen.
So, here you go Bob. Licensed real estate agents can join an association that gives them access to the local multiple listing services ( database of properties for sale) amongst other services but we can talk about that more in-depth at a later time. When an agent joins an association he or she is actually joining three separate organizations, The National Association of Realtors, The Illinois Association of Realtors ( as in my case) and the local association. Remember my shirt? What all these associations have in common is that all of the members subscribe to The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
What is important to know about the code is that it parallels national and state licence laws. Now every state is different but it may be safe to say that if a member has violated the code he or she may have also violated the license laws in their respective states.
O.K. I think the buyers agent violated the code of ethics, now what? Call your local association and they should send you the forms and documents you need to file a complaint. The important thing to remember is that you have 180 days from the time you reasonably knew that you had a complaint.
Once you have filled out the forms and returned them to the local association they will be forwarded to the Grievance Committeeman where it will be decided if there is a reasonable complaint and if the complaint should move forward. The committee's job isn't to see who is right or wrong, just to see if the complaint has merit much like a grand jury.
When the complaintant's case goes forward it will be heard by a panel of the respondent's peers. During the hearing the complaintent will have the opportunity to present their case and likewise for the respondent. Each party will also have a chance to cross examine the other party along with giving a closing statement by each.
After the hearing, the panel will deliberate on what was just presented just as a jury would in a court case. The panel is made up of a chairman and four panel members which have no affiliation with either of the two parties. Unlike a court-case the chairman acts as the judge and the jury foreman.
If the panel finds that the respondent has violated the code of ethics, many things can happen depending on the severity of the violation. A letter of reprimand can be placed in an agents file for a less severe violation or a hefty fine with additional required education for a more serious violation. No case is ever the same and neither are the decisions or the actions that are applied.
There are probably some things I have left out but if you have any questions regarding professional standards please don't hesitate to call.