Citation Program and Ethics Complaints/Hearings

Citation Program

PRO/CPRO’s Ethics Citation Program aims to improve the process of reporting and resolving complaints. An Ethics Citation program is an alternative to the lengthy and time-consuming ethics complaint process. Respondents may elect to choose to pay a fine and take education to learn from specific Code of Ethics violations, rather than go through what can be a lengthier and more expensive hearing process. The Citation Program, which took effect beginning January 4, 2016, is part of PRO/CPRO’s ongoing effort to ensure fairness and integrity in real estate transactions according to the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. The Citation Program is intended to increase professionalism in the marketplace for our membership, streamline the ethics hearing process, and protect the interests of the general public.

How the Citation Program works:

  1. A REALTOR® or member of the public may file a Citation Complaint if the article in violation is listed below under the List of Citable Violations.
    Click here for the Citation Program form.
  2. The complaint goes to the Grievance Committee for review.
  3. If the Grievance Committee decides the articles cited in the complaint make the case eligible for the Citation Program, the case goes to the Citation Panel.
  4. If the respondent agrees to the citation, he/she pays the standard, pre-set fine set forth by the Board of Directors and attends the educational class required.

How the citation program benefits complainants and respondents:​

  • Complainants: If your complaint is forwarded to the Citation Panel, less time may be involved. However, if the respondent elects to have a hearing, the complainant must be prepared to attend.
  • Respondents: the Citation Program avoids a burdensome and time consuming hearing process. Respondents may elect NOT to use the Citation Program and proceed with a full hearing.

Citable violations and schedule of fines

Article 1 Applicable Article and Standard of Practice Possible Fine(s) Code of Ethics Class / Video on Ethics
Failure to submit offers and counter- offers objectively and as quickly as possible Article 1, supported by Standard of Practice 1-6 $1500.00 In lieu or in addition to fine(s)
Failure to advise sellers/landlords of information specified in Standard of Practice 1-12 prior to entering into a listing contract Article 1, supported by Standard of Practice 1-12 $250.00
$500.00
$1000.00
Mandatory
Failure to advise buyers/tenants of information specified in Standard of Practice 1-13 prior to entering into a buyer/tenant agreement Article 1, supported by Standard of Practice 1-13 $250.00
$500.00
$1000.00
Mandatory
Accessing or using, or allowing others to access or use, a property managed or listed on terms other than those authorized by the owner or seller Article 1, supported by Standard of Practice 1-16 $1500.00 In lieu or in addition to fine(s)

Article 3 Applicable Article and Standard of Practice Possible Fine(s) Code of Ethics Class / Video on Ethics
Failure to communicate a change in compensation for cooperative services prior to the time that REALTOR® submits an offer to purchase/lease the property Article 3, supported by Standard of Practice 3-2 $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory
As a listing broker, attempting to unilaterally modify the offered compensation with respect to a cooperative transaction after a REALTOR® has submitted an offer to purchase or lease that property Article 3, supported by Standard of Practice 3-2 $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory
Failing to disclose existence of dual or variable rate commission arrangements Article 3, supported by Standard of Practice 3-4 $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory
Failure to disclose to cooperating brokers differential that would result in dual or variable rate commission arrangement if sale/lease results through efforts of seller/landlord Article 3, supported by Standard of Practice 3-4 $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory
Failing to disclose existence of accepted offers, including offers with unresolved contingencies, to cooperating brokers Article 3, supported by Standard of Practice 3-6 $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory
Misrepresenting the availability of access to show or inspect a listed property Article 3, supported by Standard of Practice 3-8 $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory

Article 4 Applicable Article and Standard of Practice Possible Fine(s) Code of Ethics Class / Video on Ethics
Failing to disclose REALTOR®’s ownership or other interest in writing to the purchaser or their representative Article 4 (second sentence) $250.00
$500.00
$1000.00
Mandatory

Article 5 Applicable Article and Standard of Practice Possible Fine(s) Code of Ethics Class / Video on Ethics
Providing professional services without disclosing REALTOR®’s present interest in property Article 5 (limited to present interest, not contemplated) $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory

Article 6 Applicable Article and Standard of Practice Possible Fine(s) Code of Ethics Class / Video on Ethics
Accepting any commission, rebate, or profit on expenditures without client’s knowledge or consent Article 6 (first paragraph) $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory
Failure to disclose to a client or customer REALTOR®’s financial benefits or fees received as a direct result of recommending real estate products or services Article 6 (second paragraph) $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory
Failure to disclose REALTOR®’s direct interest in an organization or business entity when recommending to a client or customer that they use the services of that organization or business entity Article 6, supported by Standard of Practice 6-1 $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory

Article 12 Applicable Article and Standard of Practice Possible Fine(s) Code of Ethics Class / Video on Ethics
Failing to present a true picture in real estate communications and advertising Article 12 (first paragraph) $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory
Failing to disclose status as real estate professional in advertising and other representations Article 12 (second paragraph) $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory
Failure to provide all terms governing availability of a “free” product or service in an advertisement or other representation Article 12, supported by Standard of Practice 12-1 $250.00
$500.00
$1000.00
Mandatory
Failure to exercise care and candor when communicating the terms and conditions of premiums, prizes, merchandise discounts or other inducements to list, sell, purchase, or lease Article 12, supported by Standard of Practice 12-3 $250.00
$500.00
$1000.00
Mandatory
Advertising property for sale/lease without authority of owner or listing broker. Article 12, supported by Standard of Practice 12-4 $1500.00 In lieu or in addition to fine(s)
Failing to disclose name of firm in advertisement for listed property in a reasonable and readily apparent manner Article 12, supported by Standard of Practice 12-5 $250.00
$500.00
$1000.00
Mandatory
Failing to disclose status as both owner/landlord and REALTOR® or licensee when advertising property in which REALTOR® has ownership interest Article 12, supported by Standard of Practice 12-6 $250.00
$500.00
$1000.00
Mandatory
Falsely claiming to have “sold” property Article 12, supported by Standard of Practice 12-7 $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory
Failure to take corrective action when it becomes apparent that information on a REALTOR®’s website is no longer current or accurate Article 12, supported by second sentence of Standard of Practice 12-8 $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory
Failure to disclose firm name and state of licensure on REALTOR® firm website Article 12, supported by Standard of Practice 12-9 $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory
Misleading consumers through deceptive framing, manipulating content, deceptively diverting internet traffic, presenting other’s content without attribution or permission, or using misleading images Article 12, supported by Standard of Practice 12-10 $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory
Registering or using of deceptive URL or domain name Article 12, supported by Standard of Practice 12-12 $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory
Representing that the REALTOR® has a designation, certification, or other credential they are not entitled to use Article 12, supported by Standard of Practice 12-13 $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory

Article 14 Applicable Article and Standard of Practice Possible Fine(s) Code of Ethics Class / Video on Ethics
Failing to cooperate in a professional standards proceeding or investigation in circumstances when cooperation has been demanded by the association and association has advised REALTOR® failure to cooperate could result in an allegation of a violation of Article 14 Article 14 $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory

Article 16 Applicable Article and Standard of Practice Possible Fine(s) Code of Ethics Class / Video on Ethics
Conditioning submission of a buyer’s offer on additional compensation from a listing broker Article 16, supported by Standard of Practice 16-16 $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory
Placing for sale/lease sign on property without permission of seller/landlord Article 16, supported by Standard of Practice 16-19 $250.00
$500.00
$1500.00
Mandatory

NOTE: Associations may adopt all or some of the above citations. No additional citations may be added. Fines for each citable offense, as well as any possible training requirements, must be established in advance and should be followed consistently.

Associations, at their discretion, may adopt an escalating fine schedule for repeat citations and also may impose a training requirement in addition to or as an alternative to payment of a fine for any of the citable offenses adopted. If an escalating fine schedule is adopted, it may only be used in circumstances where citations are issued by the same association.

The amount of fine for any citation is at the option of the association, but aggregated fines levied against any member may not exceed $5,000 in any three (3) year period.

REVISED AS OF 2/17/2021

Ethics complaints and hearing information

Click the links below to learn more about the process of filing an ethics complaint.

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®.

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 taking this step, 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®-ASSOCIATEs are subject to the Code of Ethics of the National Association of REALTORS®. Verify the person you wish to file against is a member of the Pinellas REALTORS® Organization and Central Pasco REALTOR® Orgnaization.
  • If the real estate professional (or their broker) you are dealing with is not a REALTOR®, your only recourse may be the Florida Real Estate Commission (FREC) 866-532-1440, www.myfloridalicense.com or the judicial system.
  • 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 Florida Real Estate Commission (FREC) 866-532-1440 or www.myfloridalicense.com 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.
  • Ethics complaints must be filed within one hundred eighty (180) days from the time a complainant knew (or reasonably should have known) that potentially unethical conduct took place.
  • 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 typewritten narrative description of the circumstances that lead you to believe the Code of Ethics may have been violated.
  • Click here to file and submit an Ethics Complaint.   Click here for suggested documents.
  • Your complaint must cite one or more of the Articles of the REALTOR® 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.
  • Per new policies passed by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), PRO/CPRO has adopted a Citation Program, which began January 4, 2016. Reporting may be anonymous, and cases and fines will be assessed by a member committee with staff administration. View the articles/standards of practice of the Code of Ethics that are a part of the citation program and the fines associated with them below.  
  • Complaints submitted from REALTORS® must include the original and 12 copies, if the complaint is submitted from a member of the public, only one copy (original) is required.

What happens after you file a complaint?

  • Your complaint will be reviewed by the Grievance Committee. Their job is to review complaints and 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 that they don’t believe you. Rather, it means that the allegation(s) are not supported by the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. Just because something may be unprofessional or unethical it may not fall within the REALTOR® Code of Ethics.
  • 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.

What are you responsible for doing?

  • 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.

What to expect 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.
  • 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

What happens after the hearing?

  • Decisions are mailed within 10 days.
  • 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.
  • Appeals must be filed within in 20 days from the notification of the Findings of Facts and must include a reasonable detail (narrative) the facts and evidence which support the bases for your appeal attached to Form# E-13 with the Appeal Filing Fee of $250. 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.