Professional Standards & Complaint Processes

The professional standard that sets REALTORS® apart from other real estate practitioners is their acceptance and adherence to the Code of Ethics. The Code has been revised many times through the years to reflect current developments in professional real estate practice. Even with the best of intentions, planning and preparation, occasional disagreements arise between REALTORS® and/or between REALTORS® and their clients or customers. As civil litigation becomes increasingly costly, time consuming, and burdensome, there has been a trend among private parties to settle disputes and conflicting claims through alternative means.

The Pinellas REALTOR® Organization and Central Pasco REALTOR® Organization (PRO/CPRO) offers its members and their clients a vehicle to economically expedite ethics complaints and/or arbitration requests without going to court. Ethics complaints brought before a local association give those parties involved an opportunity to be educated about the Code, and REALTORS® are judged by their peers as opposed to others who may be far less familiar with the practices and customs of the real estate industry.

Pathways to resolution

How conflicts and complaints against REALTORS® are handled depends upon what category they fall into.

Ethics

  • When a member (respondent) is believed to be in violation of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics
  • Respondents must be a member of PRO/CPRO. If they are a member of another local association, you must contact their association.
  • Complainants may be REALTOR® members or the public.
Steps:

Ombudsman

The ombudsman program is an optional, but highly recommended solution to resolution.

Essentially, it’s informal telephone mediation. In some cases it can address and solve minor complaints from the public. It can also solve inter-REALTOR® conflicts before they become serious problems. Like a mediator, an ombudsman helps parties find solutions.

Click to learn more or file for the ombudsman program.

Filing an ethics complaint

  • Recommended if ombudsman is unsuccessful.
  • Possible outcomes include fines, mandatory education, or a reprimand.
  • No financial rewards for complainant.

The Grievance Committee considers the ethics complaint.

There are three possible outcomes:

  1. The case is dismissed.
    Appeals are conducted by the Board of Directors’ appellate panel, who can only consider original evidence.

  2. The case is determined to fall into Citation Program.
    The Citation Committeereviews the complaint. No hearing is necessary unless respondent appeals. Click to learn about the Citation Program.

  3. A hearing is required
    The respondent is notified, files a response, and a hearing is scheduled.

Hearings

Hearing panel members are unpaid volunteers. Their objective is to be fair, unbiased, and impartial. Click to learn more about ethics complaints and hearings.

A hearing has three possible outcomes:

  1. Parties accept the panel’s decision.
    The Board of Directors then ratifies the decision.

  2. The complainant appeals.
    Can only appeal due to procedural deficiency or any lack of procedural due process.

  3. The respondent appeals.
    Can appeal due to procedural deficiency or any lack of procedural due process, the fine amount, or misappropriation of the Code of Ethics.

Appeals are conducted by the Board of Directors’ appellate panel, who can only consider original evidence.

Arbitration

  • Typically broker to broker.
  • The goal is procuring cause.
  • Filing fees apply.
  • Mediation is a mandatory step before a hearing is considered.
Steps:

Mediation

Mediation is an informal process in which disputing REALTOR® members meet with a neutral third party mediator, whose role is to help the parties resolve the conflict. The mediator does not make the decision. It is up to the parties, with the help of the mediator, to reach their own solution.

Click to learn more or file for the mediation program.

If unsuccessful, the Grievance Committee considers the case, from which there are two possible outcomes:

  1. The case is dismissed.
    Appeals can only be on the grounds of a procedural deficiency or any lack of procedural due process. Appeals are conducted by the Board of Directors’ appellate panel, who can only consider original evidence.

  2. An arbitration hearing is required

Arbitration Hearing

If mediation is not reached, the board will proceed with arbitration and fees will be applied. Once the arbitration hearing is approved, parties will be notified of the hearing date and place. The requirements, options, processes involved in arbitration can be found here.

The results of an arbitration hearing are final and cannot be appealed.

Lost? Need help? Unsure where to begin?

We are available to help you get started, as well as guide you through the steps.

PRO/CPRO staff do not render judgment nor have any influence on the outcome of any case. Our job is to communicate the options available to you within established guidelines.

Please be aware, most conflicts can be resolved successfully through our informal processes, which is why they are the first recommended steps.

Additional professional standards resources

NAR's Code of Ethics and Professional Standards

NAR’s Code of Ethics, adopted in 1913, was one of the first codifications of ethical duties adopted by any business group. The Code ensures that consumers are served by requiring REALTORS® to cooperate with each other in furthering clients’ best interests. (nar.realtor)

Code of ethics training

REALTORS® are required to complete ethics training of not less than 2 hours, 30 minutes of instructional time. The training must meet specific learning objectives and criteria established by the National Association of REALTORS®. (nar.realtor)

Report unlicensed activity

The Unlicensed Activity (ULA) program within the Department of Business and Professional Regulation exists to serve the citizens of the State of Florida by educating them about the dangers of unlicensed activity and investigating complaints filed against unlicensed individuals.. (myfloridalicense.com)

Anti-trust and fair housing videos

Anti-trust video

The policy of PRO/CPRO is to adhere to all anti-trust laws and to encourage and insist that members faithfully adhere to these Federal laws as well. Anti-trust as it relates to REALTORS® is discussed at the PRO/CPRO New Member Orientation class. If you missed this portion of the presentation, please view the video link below and note your compliance via the form provided.

Video Length: 20:38

Fair housing video

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® has developed a Fair Housing Program to provide resources and guidance to REALTORS® in ensuring equal professional services for all people. The term REALTOR® identifies a licensed professional in real estate who is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Not all licensed real estate brokers and salespersons are members of the National Association, and only those who are may identify themselves as REALTORS®. They conduct their business and activities in accordance with a strict Code of Ethics.

Fair Housing is discussed at the Pinellas REALTOR® Association PRO Start Orientation class. If you missed this portion of the presentation, please view the video link below and note your compliance via the form provided. 

Video Length: 5:10