1930 Highway 180 East | Silver City, New Mexico | (575) 538-2665 | © 1999-2020 SCRAR
Code of Ethics | Disclaimer | Equal Housing

Professional Standards

Definition. Ethical or legal duty of a professional to exercise the level of care, diligence, and skill prescribed in the code of practice of his or her profession, or as other professionals in the same discipline would in the same or similar circumstances.

 
 
 
 
REALTORS® Code of Ethics

 

If you feel a member of our association has violated

the REALTOR® Code of Ethics you might consider

filing a complaint. Learn more below.

 

We are part of the Southwest Regional Professional

Standards Tribunal who's members also include the

Las Cruces Association of REALTORS and the

Deming/Luna County Board of REALTORS.

If you believe the individual with whom you are working

has violated the License Law, contact the New Mexico

Real Estate Commission.

 

Learn more.

REALTORS® Professional Standards

 

Boards and associations of REALTORS® are responsible for enforcing the REALTORS® Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics imposes duties above and in addition to those imposed by law or regulation which apply only to real estate professionals who choose to become REALTORS®.

Though not a governmental or licensing agency, upon receiving a formal "Ethics Complaint" the Silver City Regional Association of REALTORS® through its regional Grievance and Professional Standards Committees, will conduct investigations and hearings involving members to enforce those professional standards. The regional committees are comprised of members of our association, the Las Cruces Association of REALTORS® and the Deming/Luna County Board of REALTORS®.

Our Association also offers ombudsman services to members, clients, and consumers. An ombudsman is an individual appointed to receive and resolve disputes through constructive communication and advocating for consensus and understanding.

 

Another type of investigation is called a "Request for Arbitration."  An arbitration hearing, or the alternative service of mediation, will determine disputes over real estate commissions that arise between REALTORS® and other REALTORS®, or between REALTORS® and their customers or clients.

 

Any professional standards complaint received, as well as any material related to a complaint received, is considered to be strictly confidential in nature.  Both the Grievance and Professional Standards Committees are responsible for ensuring due process is afforded to all parties, whether it be in the conduct of a hearing to enforce the  Code of Ethics or in the arbitration of commission disputes arising out of the real estate business. 

Many difficulties between real estate professionals (whether REALTORS® or not) result from misunderstanding, miscommunication, or lack of adequate communication. If you have a problem with a real estate professional, you may want to speak with them or with a principal broker in the firm. Open, constructive discussion often resolves questions or differences, eliminating the need for further action.

If, after discussing matters with your real estate professional or a principal broker in that firm, you are still not satisfied, you may want to contact the local board or association of REALTORS®. Many boards and associations have informal dispute resolving processes available to consumers (e.g. ombudsmen, mediation, etc.).

If, after taking these steps, you still feel you have a grievance, you many want to consider filing an ethics complaint. You will want to keep in mind that . . .

  • Only REALTORS® and REALTOR-ASSOCIATE®s are subject to the Code of Ethics of the National Association of REALTORS®.

  • If the real estate professional (or their broker) you are dealing with is not a REALTOR®, your only recourse may be the state real state licensing authority or the courts.

  • Boards and associations of REALTORS® determine whether the Code of Ethics has been violated, not whether the law or real estate regulations have been broken. Those decisions can only be made by the licensing authorities or the courts.

  • Boards of REALTORS® can discipline REALTORS® for violating the Code of Ethics. Typical forms of discipline include attendance at courses and seminars designed to increase REALTORS®' understanding of the ethical duties or other responsibilities of real estate professionals. REALTORS® may also be reprimanded, fined, or their membership can be suspended or terminated for serious or repeated violations. Boards and associations of REALTORS® cannot require REALTORS® to pay money to parties filing ethics complaints; cannot award "punitive damages" for violations of the Code of Ethics; and cannot suspend or revoke a real estate professional's license.

  • The primary emphasis of discipline for ethical lapses is educational, to create a heightened awareness of and appreciation for the duties the Code imposes. At the same time, more severe forms of discipline, including fines and suspension and termination of membership may be imposed for serious or repeated violations.


Filing an ethics complaint

The local board or association of REALTORS® can provide you with information on the procedures for filing an ethics complaint. Here are some general principles to keep in mind.

  • Ethics complaints must be filed with the local board or association of REALTORS® within one hundred eighty (180) days from the time a complainant knew (or reasonably should have known) that potentially unethical conduct took place (unless the Board’s informal dispute resolution processes are invoked in which case the filing deadline will momentarily be suspended).

  • The REALTORS® Code of Ethics consists of seventeen (17) Articles. The duties imposed by many of the Articles are explained and illustrated through accompanying Standards of Practice or case interpretations.

  • Your complaint should include a narrative description of the circumstances that lead you to believe the Code of Ethics may have been violated.

  • Your complaint must cite one or more of the Articles of the Code of Ethics which may have been violated. Hearing panels decide whether the Articles expressly cited in complaints were violated - not whether Standards of Practice or case interpretations were violated.

  • The local board or association of REALTORS®' Grievance Committee may provide technical assistance in preparing a complaint in proper form and with proper content.


Before the hearing

  • Your complaint will be reviewed by the local board or association's Grievance Committee. Their job is to review complaints to determine if the allegations made, if taken as true, might support a violation of the Article(s) cited in the complaint.

  • If the Grievance Committee dismisses your complaint, it does not mean they don't believe you. Rather, it means that they do not feel that your allegations would support a hearing panel's conclusion that the Article(s) cited in your complaint had been violated. You may want to review your complaint to see if you cited an Article appropriate to your allegations.

  • If the Grievance Committee forwards your complaint for hearing, that does not mean they have decided the Code of Ethics has been violated. Rather, it means they feel that if what you allege in your complaint is found to have occurred by the hearing panel, that panel may have reason to find that a violation of the Code of Ethics occurred.

  • If your complaint is dismissed as not requiring a hearing, you can appeal that dismissal to the board of directors of the local board or association of REALTORS®.


Preparing for the hearing

  • Familiarize yourself with the hearing procedures that will be followed. In particular you will want to know about challenging potential panel members, your right to counsel, calling witnesses, and the burdens and standards of proof that apply.

  • Complainants have the ultimate responsibility ("burden") of proving that the Code of Ethics has been violated. The standard of proof that must be met is "clear, strong and convincing," defined as, ". . . that measure or degree of proof which will produce a firm belief or conviction as to the allegations sought to be established." Consistent with American jurisprudence, respondents are considered innocent unless proven to have violated the Code of Ethics.

  • Be sure that your witnesses and counsel will be available on the day of the hearing. Continuances are a privilege - not a right.

  • Be sure you have all the documents and other evidence you need to present your case.

  • Organize your presentation in advance. Know what you are going to say and be prepared to demonstrate what happened and how you believe the Code of Ethics was violated.


At the hearing

  • Appreciate that panel members are unpaid volunteers giving their time as an act of public service. Their objective is to be fair, unbiased, and impartial; to determine, based on the evidence and testimony presented to them, what actually occurred; and then to determine whether the facts as they find them support a finding that the Article(s) charged have been violated.

  • Hearing panels cannot conclude that an Article of the Code has been violated unless that Article(s) is specifically cited in the complaint.

  • Keep your presentation concise, factual, and to the point. Your task is to demonstrate what happened (or what should have happened but didn't), and how the facts support a violation of the Article(s) charged in the complaint.

  • Hearing panels base their decisions on the evidence and testimony presented during the hearing. If you have information relevant to the issue(s) under consideration, be sure to bring it up during your presentation.

  • Recognize that different people can witness the same event and have differing recollections about what they saw. The fact that a respondent or their witness recalls things differently doesn't mean they aren't telling the truth as they recall events. It is up to the hearing panel, in the findings of fact that will be part of their decision, to determine what actually happened.

  • The hearing panel will pay careful attention to what you say and how you say it. An implausible account doesn't become more believable through repetition or, through volume.

  • You are involved in an adversarial process that is, to some degree, unavoidably confrontational. Many violations of the Code of Ethics result from misunderstanding or lack of awareness of ethical duties by otherwise well-meaning, responsible real estate professionals. An ethics complaint has potential to be viewed as an attack on a respondent's integrity and professionalism. For the enforcement process to function properly, it is imperative for all parties, witnesses, and panel members to maintain appropriate decorum.


After the hearing

  • When you receive the hearing panel's decision, review it carefully.

  • Findings of fact are the conclusions of impartial panel members based on their reasoned assessment of all of the evidence and testimony presented during the hearing. Findings of fact are not appealable.

  • If you believe the hearing process was seriously flawed to the extent you were denied a full and fair hearing, there are appellate procedures that can be involved. The fact that a hearing panel found no violation is not appealable.

  • Refer to the procedures used by the local board or association of REALTORS® for detailed information on the bases and time limits for appealing decisions or requesting a rehearing. Rehearings are generally granted only when newly discovered evidence comes to light (a) which could not reasonably have been discovered and produced at the original hearing and (b) which might have had a bearing on the hearing panel's decision. Appeals brought by ethics respondents must be based on (a) a perceived misapplication or misinterpretation of one or more Articles of the Code of Ethics, (b) a procedural deficiency or failure of due process, or (c) the nature or gravity of the discipline proposed by the hearing panel. Appeals brought by ethics complainants are limited to procedural deficiencies or failures of due process that may have prevented a full and fair hearing.


Conclusion
Many ethics complaints result from misunderstanding or a failure in communication. Before filing an ethics complaint, make reasonable efforts to communicate with your real estate professional or a principal broker in the firm. If these efforts are not fruitful, the local board or association of REALTORS® can give you the procedures and forms necessary to file an ethics complaint.

Ombudsman Services

Initiation of ethics mediation procedures
Many “complaints” received by boards and 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.

The ombudsman’s role is primarily one of communication and conciliation, not adjudication. Ombudsmen do not determine whether ethics violations have occurred or who is entitled to what amount of money, rather they anticipate, identify, and resolve misunderstandings and disagreements before matters ripen into disputes and possible charges of unethical conduct.

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.

Click here for or more information. Our Ombudsman services are provided by Kim Clark, Susan Turner and Pat Fell.

Mediation

Initiation of ethics mediation procedures
The ethics mediation process can be initiated in two ways. First, through filing a written ethics complaint. Second, through a personal, telephone, or written inquiry or complaint generally alleging potentially unethical conduct but which (a) is not filed on the appropriate form or (b) is not specific as to which Article(s) may have been violated.

Where a written ethics complaint in the appropriate form is received, it will be reviewed by the Grievance Committee so a determination can be made whether a possible violation may have occurred or, alternatively, whether the complaint should be dismissed as not requiring a hearing. Where an informal inquiry or general letter of complaint that does not allege a potential violation of the public trust is received, it will not be reviewed by the Grievance Committee, but will be referred to an ethics mediator.

Participation in ethics mediation is voluntary
Persons inquiring about the process for filing ethics complaints will be advised that ethics mediation is available as an alternative to a formal ethics hearing provided that all parties agree to participate, and also be advised they may decline or withdraw from mediation and have their complaint considered at a formal ethics hearing. Similarly, REALTORS® complained about have the right to decline or withdraw from mediation and to have complaints against them considered at a formal ethics hearing.

Referral of complaints to the mediator
When either a written ethics complaint in the appropriate form is reviewed by the Grievance Committee and the Grievance Committee concludes that a hearing is warranted, or when a general letter of inquiry or complaint is received, and the matter(s) complained of do not involve a possible violation of the “public trust”, the materials received will be referred to the ethics mediator who will contact the parties to schedule a meeting at a mutually agreeable time. “Public trust” refers to misappropriation of client or customer funds or property, willful discrimination, or fraud resulting in substantial economic harm.

During the mediation session the mediator will encourage all parties to openly and candidly discuss all issues and concerns giving rise to the inquiry or complaint, and to develop a resolution acceptable to all of the parties. In the event the mediator concludes that a potential violation of the public trust may have occurred, the mediation process shall be immediately terminated, and the parties shall be advised of their 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.

Nature of the mediated resolution
The mediator and the parties have considerable latitude in fashioning a mutually acceptable resolution. Resolutions can include, but are not limited to, payment of disputed funds, repairs or restoration of property, written or oral apology, or acknowledgement of a violation of the Code of Ethics. In cases where a REALTOR® acknowledges that the Code has been violated, that admission may be sufficient to resolve the matter or, alternatively, the parties may agree that discipline should be imposed. The discipline may, at the agreement of all parties, include any of the forms of discipline established in the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual and may also include payment of monies to the complainant or to a third party. Also, the parties may agree that the complainant will withdraw a complaint or agree not to file a formal, written ethics complaint in return for the respondent’s action or acknowledgement. Again, any discipline imposed must be agreed to by all of the parties.

Referrals to the Grievance Committee or to state regulatory bodies
Ethics mediators cannot refer concerns they have regarding the conduct of any party to mediation to the Grievance Committee, to the state real estate licensing authority or to any other regulatory body. This prohibition is intended to ensure impartiality and avoid the possible appearance of bias. Mediators are, however, authorized to refer concerns that the public trust may have been violated to the Grievance Committee.

Refusal to comply with agreed upon discipline
Failure or refusal of a respondent to comply with the terms of any mutually agreed on resolution shall entitle the complaining party to resubmit the original complaint or, where a formal complaint in the appropriate form had not been filed, to file an ethics complaint. The time the matter was originally brought to the board or association’s attention shall be considered the filing date for purposes of determining whether an ethics complaint is timely filed.

Confidentiality of mediation process
The allegations, discussions, and decisions rendered in ethics mediation 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.

 

Southwest Regional Tribunal Mediators are:

  • Rick Boetticher

  • Mary Holiday

  • Connie Hettinga

  • Peggy Shinn