Ethics Enforcement Strengthened
The National Association of REALTORS® Board of Directors has approved three Professional Standards Committee recommendations, changes to the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual. The changes go into effect in January 2023. 1. Limits on expedited enforcement. The board added language to Section 20 of the manual, which describes an expedited ethics enforcement process. The new language enables Grievance Committees to refer a complaint to the Professional Standards Committee for a hearing—despite a respondent’s request for expedited enforcement—if the conduct described in the complaint is sufficiently egregious and/or a potential violation of public trust. Reason: The expedited process doesn’t allow associations sufficient latitude to deal with such complaints. Under the expedited ethics enforcement process, a member can’t be suspended for more than 30 days. The expedited process also takes expulsion off the table and doesn’t allow for suspension or expulsion from MLS participation. In addition, hearing panels have no mechanism to require respondents to cease or refrain from conduct deemed to be in violation of the Code or to take affirmative steps to ensure compliance with the Code. 2. Anonymous complaints. The board also modified Section 20 to clarify that anonymous complaints, other than those allowed for in an association’s citation policy, are prohibited. If an association’s citation policy allows for anonymous complaints, any complaint referred for hearing must include a complainant (such as a member of the Grievance Committee) to shoulder the burden of proof. 3. Definition of “real estate professional.” Section 1 of the manual has been amended to define “Real Estate Professional” as an individual engaged in the disciplines of real estate specified under Article 11 of the Code of Ethics. Those disciplines include residential real estate brokerage, real property management, commercial and industrial real estate brokerage, land brokerage, real estate appraisal, real estate counseling, real estate syndication, real estate auction, and international real estate.