Boards and associations of REALTORS® are responsible for receiving and resolving ethics complaints, usually as a function of local, regional and state grievance committees and professional standards committees.
Many “complaints” 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 relatively easy transactional, technical, or procedural questions.
It is the belief of the National Association’s Professional Standards Committee that many ethics complaints can be averted with enhanced communications and initial problem-solving at the local level. This is accomplished by what we call ombudsman procedures.
Role of Ombudsmen
The ombudsman’s role is primarily one of communication and conciliation, not adjudication. Ombudsmen do not determine whether ethics violations have occurred, rather they anticipate, identify, and resolve misunderstandings and disagreements before matters ripen into disputes and possible charges of unethical conduct.
Right to Decline Ombudsman Services
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 considered at a formal ethics hearing.
Failure to Comply with Agreed-upon Resolution
Failure or refusal of a member to comply with the terms of a mutually agreed-upon 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 at which the matter was originally brought to the board or association will be considered the filing date.
Referrals to the Grievance Committee or to State Regulatory Bodies
Ombudsmen cannot refer concerns regarding the conduct of any party utilizing their services to the Grievance Committee, state real estate licensing authority, or any other regulatory body. The prohibition is intended to ensure impartiality and avoid the possible appearance of bias. Ombudsmen are, however, authorized to refer concerns that the public trust may have been violated to the Grievance Committee.
The FCBR Board of Directors has now adopted the National Association of REALTORS® mandatory mediation requirement which requires that all parties who file for mandatory arbitration attempt to resolve their dispute through mediation prior to going to arbitration.