How to File a Complaint Against a REALTOR®
Simply contact the Association at (916) 624-8271 to request Ombudsman services or to request the necessary forms and procedure for your filing. Prior to making your call, we ask that you read the following Q&A:
Q) Who Can File a Complaint?
A) An ethics complaint may be filed against a REALTOR® member of an Association by anyone, whether a REALTOR® member, agent or member of the public. Not all real estate licensees are REALTORS®. Only those who belong to an Association can use the term REALTOR®. By joining an Association, all members agree to abide by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ Code of Ethics as a condition of membership. It is because of their obligation to abide by the Code of Ethics that a complaint may be filed. Please contact your Association office to determine whether the real estate agent in question is a REALTOR® member.
Q) Is it an Ethics Complaint or an Arbitration Request?
A) Ethics Complaint – implies that a REALTOR® has violated an Article(s) of the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics.
Arbitration – a monetary dispute arising out of a real estate transaction.
If your situation concerns both ethics and arbitration, they will be handled separately. Arbitration cases are always processed prior to an ethics complaint regarding the same circumstances. Only when the arbitration is completed, will the ethics complaint be considered.
Q) What is the role of the Association Staff?
A) The Association’s paid professional staff are not licensed REALTORS® or lawyers. The Professional Standards Administrator is responsible for ensuring that the professional standards process of paperwork administration, notifications, correspondence, and maintenance of the confidential case files is done in a timely and efficient manner according to the policies and procedures set forth in the California and National Association of REALTORS® Professional Standards manuals. The staff is not allowed to dispense legal advice or counsel you on your case.
Q) Have you considered discussing the matter with the agent’s broker or considered Mediation prior to filing an Ethics Complaint or Arbitration Request?
A-1) Communication- Many times, issues can be resolved through simple communication. We recommend that you first contact your agent and his/her broker if you have an issue to resolve.
A-2) Mediation – is another resource available to provide an environment for conflict resolution. We can also handle your mediation.
A-3) Ombudsman – Our association can provide you with an Ombudsman who will assist you with your questions and try to help resolve your conflict prior to filing a formal complaint. Contact (916) 624-8271 to request our Ombudsman services today.
The National Association of REALTORS® adopted its Code of Ethics in 1913, imposing duties above and in addition to those imposed by law and regulation. Not all real estate agents are REALTORS®; only those agents who belong to their local Association of REALTORS® may claim this designation. With the REALTOR® designation comes the obligation to abide by the professional behavior to clients, customers, other members of the public and fellow real estate professionals as detailed in the Code of Ethics. It is because of this obligation to the Code of Ethics that you may file a complaint with the Association. To determine whether an agent is a REALTOR®, please call the Association for verification.
Many difficulties between real estate professionals may result from misunderstandings or miscommunications. Therefore, before filing a complaint, it is recommended that you speak with your real estate professional and/or with the principal broker of the firm prior to filing a complaint. Differences may often be resolved by such communication.
Associations of REALTORS® only determine whether the Code of Ethics or association membership duties have been violated, not whether the law or real estate regulations have been broken. When broken laws or regulations are suspected or when the real estate professional is not a REALTOR®, you may need to contact the California Bureau of Real Estate (916-227-0864) or the courts. And if litigation is being pursued by the complainant, the Association will usually not proceed with the ethics complaint until the litigation has concluded.
Filing an Ethics Complaint
- Call our office at (916)624-8271 and ask for Trista Gianna, our Professional Standards Administrator. She will be happy to provide you with the necessary procedures and forms for filing.
- Complete, sign and date the ethics complaint form. (Ethics complaints must be filed with the Association within 180 calendar days after the facts constituting the wrongful conduct could have been known in the exercise of reasonable diligence)
- List the Article(s) of the Code of Ethics you think the REALTOR® has violated, using the Code of Ethics which will be supplied in the filing packet.
- Attach an explanation of the situation surrounding the complaint. Be specific, stating what, where, when, why, and how you think the Article was violated.
- Attach copies of any and all pertinent documents such as listing and sales agreements, letters, etc.
- Make 5 copies of the complaint package and return to the Professional Standards Administrator.
What the Association Can and Cannot Do
The Association of REALTORS® can only determine whether the Code of Ethics or Association membership duties have been violated, not whether the law or real estate regulations have been broken.
In the case of Ethics violations the Association may discipline REALTOR® members in one or more of the following ways:
- Letter of warning or reprimand
- Direct the member to attend an education course relevant to the violation
- Place the member on probation from the Association
- Suspend Association membership
- Expel the member from the Association
- Fine the member
The Association may not require REALTOR®s to pay the complainant(s) damages and cannot revoke a real estate license.
By virtue of becoming and remaining a member of an Association and having signed an agreement to abide by Association bylaws, every member agrees to bind themselves and the company for whom they act to submit disputes “arising out of a real estate transaction” to arbitration as defined in Article 17 of the National Association of REALTOR® Code of Ethics.
Furthermore, membership termination from the Association will not absolve the member of arbitration duty for disputes arising when the person was a member of the Association.
Disputes subject to arbitration include disputes with other REALTOR® members arising out of real estate business and their relationship as REALTOR® (usually over the distribution of a commission) and in specified contractual disputes with a member’s client arising out of an agency relationship between the member and client (provided the client agrees to submit the dispute to binding arbitration with the association and be bound by the arbitration award).
REALTOR® members filing for arbitration of a dispute involving the responsible broker at the time of the dispute (but not between the member and responsible broker) must have the responsible broker join in the dispute and filing of a complaint.
Members and the Association are not bound to arbitrate disputes between members of the same firm unless each party agrees in writing to the arbitration of such disputes under the Association’s facilities or a copy of the Independent Contractor’s Agreement specifying that the matter be considered at the Association is presented. Similarly, if members enter into separate agreements to arbitrate disputes outside of the Association (e.g. the American Arbitration Association); this separate agreement would supersede the obligation to arbitrate the dispute at the Association.
This would not include an attempt to bypass the arbitration process by filing a civil lawsuit against another member. In this case the respondent member can request the court to compel arbitration at the local association in accordance with the arbitration agreement; however, failure by the respondent to make this request of the court would waive the right of the parties to arbitrate at the local association.
If a member holds membership in several different associations, another member can file a complaint at any association where the other member holds membership or where both members have common membership.
Filing an Arbitration Request
- Contact our office at (916) 624-8271 and ask for Trista Gianna. She will be happy to provide you with the necessary procedures and forms for filing.
- Complete, sign and date the Arbitration Request Form. The request should indicate the amount in dispute and should be submitted with a statement explaining the facts and circumstances supporting why you feel you are entitled to an award.
- Provide any and all supporting documentation relating to the arbitration dispute, including contracts, addendums, disclosures and notes necessary to substantiate your claim.
- Include an arbitration filing fee of $250 made payable to the Placer County Association of REALTORS®
- Obtain the complaining broker’s signature on all requests to arbitrate. Arbitration may not proceed with the salesperson as the sole complainant.
- Return the completed filing packet with 5 copies to the Association.