Code of Ethics Enforcement - Frequently Asked Questions
The following information is specifically for the Fort Collins Board of REALTORS® and does not address all policies and procedures. If you wish to file a complaint, please download the forms from the ethics or arbitration section or please contact Colleen Westhuis at 223-2900 or email@example.com for more info.
1) Where do I file an ethics complaint if the REALTOR® is a member of a different Board/Association?
Ethics complaints are filed where the respondent holds membership. The Fort Collins Board of REALTORS® can only process complaints filed against members of our Association, whether they are filed by another REALTOR® or by a client/customer of a REALTOR®. Please contact the Colorado Association of REALTORS®, 303-790-7099, if you are uncertain where the REALTOR® holds membership.
2) Where do I file a Request for Arbitration if the member is from a different Board/Association?
The Fort Collins Board of REALTORS® can only process arbitration requests filed where both parties, complainant and respondent, are members of our Association OR if th complainant is a client or customer of a REALTOR® (not a REALTOR®) it is filed at the respondent local Board/Association. All other complaints where the REALTORS® are from different Boards/Associations, are considered Inter-Board Arbitrations, and filed appropriately at the Colorado Association of REALTORS®.
3) What is the difference between an ethics complaint and arbitration request?
An ethics complaint charges that a REALTOR® has violated an Article(s) of the Code of Ethics. An arbitration request involves a dispute over entitlement to a monetary transaction (e.g., a commission).
4) Who can file an ethics complaint?
Any person, whether a member or not, having reason to believe that a member is in violation of any conduct subject to disciplinary action.
5) Who can file an arbitration request?
A customer, client, or REALTOR® principal (Broker of the Office). A REALTOR® nonprincipal can also request arbitration with his current or former REALTOR® principal.
6) Is there a time limit?
YES. Ethics complaints must be filed within one hundred eighty (180) days of the time that the alleged offense and relating facts could have been known by the complainant in the exercise of reasonable diligence. Requests for arbitration must be filed within one hundred eighty (180) days after the closing of the transaction, if any, or within one hundred eighty (180) days after the facts constituting the arbitrable matter could have been known in the exercise of reasonable diligence, whichever is later.
7) Who should I give the complaint or request to?
At FCBR, the complaints are given to our Director of Education & Professionalism, Colleen Westhuis at 223-2900 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Complaints can be hand delivered, mailed, or emailed, whichever the complainant prefers. Please remember that the Association administers the program and can answer procedural questions, we do NOT give either side legal or other advice.
8) What should be included with the ethics complaint or arbitration request?
Ethics – An ethics complaint form must be completed and filed. In addition, a written statement of the facts (with appropriate documentation, if any) on which the complaint is based must also be included, dated, and signed by the complainant. The appropriate Article(s) as they pertain to the facts in the alleged violation must be cited in the complaint.
Arbitration – An arbitration request form must be completed and submitted with details of the dispute and the deposit of $250 (which may be refundable if the requestor is found to be the prevailing party). In addition, include whatever documentation that may help substantiate your position.
9) Are there certain Articles that can or can’t be cited?
Only Articles 1 through 17 may be the basis of a complaint. The Preamble is aspirational and may not be used as a basis for charges of unethical conduct.
10) Can Standards of Practice be cited in an ethics complaint?
No. Standards of Practice may be cited only in support of the Article(s) that was allegedly violated.
11) Are there issues or complaints that should not be brought before a board/association of REALTORS®?
YES. A charge of violating the law or State real estate regulations is not a matter that would be considered by the board/association of REALTORS®, these are appropriately handled by the Colorado Real Estate Commission which can be reached at 303-894-2166. Also, the Association is not a court of law where criminal or civil issues are resolved.
12) Is submitting to arbitration mandatory?
It depends on the circumstances. A REALTOR® may be obligated to arbitrate, or he/she may have a choice as to whether or not to voluntarily participate in an arbitration proceeding conducted by the Association.
13) When is arbitration mandatory/voluntary?
Mandatory – When the dispute is between: 1) REALTORS® who are principal brokers* in different firms; 2) clients and REALTOR® principals.
Voluntary – When the dispute is between: 1) Members of the same firm; 2) a REALTOR®, who is principal broker, and a non-member principal broker in another firm; 3) customers and REALTOR® principals.
“Principal Broker” means… A principal, partner, corporate officer, or branch office manager of a real estate firm.
14) Who has the burden and standards of proof in arbitration and ethics hearings?
In any ethics hearing or other hearing convened to consider alleged violations of membership duties and in any arbitration hearing, the ultimate burden of proving that the Code of Ethics or other membership duty has been violated, or that an arbitration award should be issued to the requesting party, is at all times on complainants and parties requesting arbitration.
The standard of proof on which arbitration hearing decisions is based shall be a “preponderance of evidence.”Preponderance of evidence shall be defined as evidence which is of greater weight or more convincing than the evidence which is offered in opposition to it; that is, evidence which as a whole shows that the facts sought to be proved are more probable than not.
“Clear, strong, and convincing” shall be the standard of proof by which alleged violations of all membership duties, including violations of the Code of Ethics, are determined. Clear, strong, and convincing shall be defined as that measure or degree of proof which will produce a firm belief or conviction as to the allegations sought to be established.
15) Are complaints that are filed “confidential”?
The allegations, findings, and decisions rendered in ethics and arbitration hearings are confidential and are NOT reported or published by the Association. Only the staff involved in the administration of cases, along with the assigned members from the Grievance and Professional Standards Committees, have access to ethics or arbitration cases.
16) What is the goal in enforcing the Code of Ethics?
Code enforcement achieves a number of goals. Where REALTORS® are wrongly or mistakenly charged with unethical conduct, the hearing process provides personal and professional vindication. Where violations are determined, the hearing process educates members about their professional obligations and serves as a meaningful deterrent to future violations. It is educational in that it raises the consciousness of members to the meaning and significance of the Code. Many ethics violations occur inadvertently or through ignorance, and the hearing proceeding serves as an effective educational tool.