Certain real estate professionals are members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). As such, they earn the right to be called REALTORS® and agree to abide by the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. State and Local Boards and Associations of REALTORS® are responsible for the enforcement of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. This Code establishes professional standards for REALTORS® in addition to those required by law.
If you have a grievance against a REALTOR® and it is an issue that was not or cannot be settled through the ombudsmen program, mediation or arbitration, an ethics complaint may be another option. Ethics complaints may be filed by any person who believes that a REALTOR® is guilty of violating the NAR Code of Ethics.
If you would like to pursue an ethics complaint against a REALTOR®, follow these steps.
1. Contact Local Board
Contact the local REALTOR® Association or Board of which the person you wish to file against is a member. At times, the local association or board will refer matters to the state association due to conflicts. This may occur at any point during the complaint process.
2. Review Code of Ethics
When completing Form E1, you are the complainant and the REALTOR® against whom you are filing the complaint is the respondent. Make sure to write in which of the Article(s) of the Code you believe were violated by the REALTOR® and provide all contact information requested on the Form E1. Write a detailed description of the events and include in any additional documentation that is relevant to your complaint.
3. File the Complaint
Send in Form E1, your detailed description and your supporting documentation to the Alabama REALTORS®, Attn: Professional Standards Administrator, 522 Washington Avenue, Montgomery, AL 36104. There is no filing fee for ethics complaints.
Pause for Current Litigation - If the circumstances giving rise to this complaint involve civil or criminal litigation or are in any proceeding before the Alabama Real Estate Commission (or any other state or federal regulatory or administrative agency), the complaint will be held in abeyance until these matters have been resolved.
Once your Ethics complaint has been received you will be notified by email, and additional information may be requested.
5. Grievance Committee
After receiving the complaint, the professional standards administrator will schedule a Grievance Committee meeting to review your complaint. Within 48 hours of the Committee’s meeting, the Grievance Committee will make their determination, and may dismiss the complaint, refer the complaint to arbitration, suggest mediation, seek additional information from the complainant, or refer the complaint to the Professional Standards Committee for a hearing on the merits. The professional standards administrator will notify the complainant of the decision within 5 days of the Grievance Committee’s determination, unless review by counsel delays notification.
Appeal of Dismissal – If the Grievance Committee dismisses the complaint or an Article on the complaint, the complainant may appeal the dismissal within 20 days of transmittal of the dismissal. The appeal should include the complainant’s explanation of why the complaint or portion thereof should not be dismissed. A different Grievance Committee panel will hear the appeal within 10 days of receiving the appeal, and the appealing party shall be notified of the decision within 5 days of the appeal panel’s decision. The appeal panel can either uphold the dismissal, which decision is then final and not subject to further appeal, or reverse the dismissal and refer the complaint or portion of the complaint to the Professional Standards Committee.
Referral to Professional Standards Committee– The Grievance Committee or appeal panel refers the complaint to a Professional Standards Panel when the facts from the complaint, if taken as true, constitute a violation of the Code of Ethics.
6. Professional Standards Committee Panel
If the Grievance Committee refers the complaint to the Professional Standards Committee, a panel of at least 5 members will hear the complaint. Upon referral, the professional standards administrator will seek a response from the respondent. Respondent has 15 days to respond to the request, and complainant will receive the response within 5 days of receipt by the Association.
Striking of Panel– Once the response has been received, the administrator will send the parties the Notice of Right to Challenge Tribunal Members, to which the parties have five days to respond with any challenges to the named tribunal members. After five days, the tribunal or panel members will be named.
7. Before the Ethics Hearing
Parties will receive at least 21 days’ notice prior to the hearing of the Professional Standards tribunal. 15 days before the hearing parties must provide notice of witnesses and counsel to the Association and the other party. While parties may bring evidence at the day of the hearing, parties are strongly encouraged to provide documents and evidence in advance.
8. During the Ethics Hearing
Hearing panels are not bound by the rules of procedure and evidence in a court of law, but all parties will be afforded an opportunity to be heard, present witnesses, and offer evidence, subject to the panel’s judgment on relevance.
Adjournment of Hearing – If, for whatever reason, the Ethics Hearing is postponed, a new date will be set note less than 15 days or more than 30 days from the original hearing date.
Decision and Notice – The Ethics Panel has up to 48 hours after the hearing to reach a decision and after which time, the Association will notify the parties within five days after staff is informed of the decision, unless review by counsel delays transmittal of the decision.
Possible Sanctions – If the Ethics Panel decides that the respondent has violated the Code of Ethics, the Panel may administer a variety of sanctions, including a private letter, public citation, fines, continuing education classes, suspension of membership, and revocation of membership.
For more information on the hearing, read an outline of the procedure in an ethics hearing here.
9. Appeal and Review
Parties have 20 days from transmittal of the Ethics Panel’s decision to appeal the decision, which appeal must be accompanied by a filing fee of $250 (returned upon a successful appeal). The Association must review the appeal within 10 days after the appeal is transmitted to the Association, and, if the Association requests additional information, the appellant has 10 days to respond to the request. The Association will notify the non-appealing party within 1 day of receiving the appeal or amended appeal. Within 30 days of receipt of the appeal and upon at least 10 days’ notice to the parties, the Association will schedule an appeal hearing by all or a portion of the Executive Committee. Similar to the Ethics hearing, parties will receive a Notice of Right to Challenge Tribunal Members.
Complainants may only appeal for procedural deficiencies or lack of due process, while respondents may also appeal misapplication or misinterpretation of the Code or the recommended discipline.
The Executive Committee may uphold the Ethics Panel’s decision, accept the decision but reduce the sanction, or refer the decision for a new hearing. The Executive Committee’s decision will be sent to the parties within 5 days of the appeal hearing.
If no appeal is filed, the Executive Committee will affirm the decision of the Ethics Panel within 30 days of the transmittal of the Panel’s decision to the parties.