Alabama REALTORS® supports the highest levels of professionalism in the real estate industry. This can be seen in our education programs, dispute resolution offerings, and ethics adjudication. See below for the resources and tools available to members and consumers.
Alabama REALTORS®' premier education offering is the nationally recognized Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI) designation. A GRI provides in-depth training on legal and regulatory issues, technology, professional standards and the sales process and lets prospective buyers and sellers know that you have a professional edge due to your expertise in these areas.
Professional Standards – Dispute Resolution and the Code of Ethics
Usually, difficulties over real estate transactions are the result of a misunderstanding, miscommunication or lack of adequate information/communication. If you have a problem with a real estate professional, consider speaking about the issue with them and/or the agent’s qualifying broker in the real estate firm. Open, constructive discussion often resolves questions or differences, eliminating the need for further action. If you have taken these steps and still feel you have a grievance, consider the following information about the REALTOR® Association and disputes with real estate professionals.
If the real estate professional with whom you are dealing is not a REALTOR®, which means that he or she is not a member of the Association of REALTORS®, your only recourse may be the state real estate licensing authority or a court of law. To file a complaint with the Alabama Real Estate Commission, click here.
Local Association First
Most local associations or boards handle their own professional standards matters, so contact the local association or board where the real estate professional is a member first. You can determine whether the real estate professional is a REALTOR® and, if a REALTOR®, to which the local association or board the REALTOR® belongs by searching here. The state-level association provides several programs available.
Code of Ethics Only
Boards and Associations of REALTORS® can only determine whether the Code of Ethics has been violated by a REALTOR® and cannot determine whether the law/real estate regulations have been broken – the Alabama Real Estate Commission or the courts can only make those determinations.
Boards and Associations of REALTORS® can discipline REALTORS® for violating the Code of Ethics. Typical forms of discipline include mandated attendance at courses/seminars, a reprimand, a fine, or suspension or termination of REALTOR® membership for serious or repeated violations. Boards/Associations CANNOT require REALTORS® to pay money to parties filing ethics complaints; cannot award “punitive damages” for violations of the Code of Ethics; and cannot suspend or revoke a real estate professional’s license.
Professional Standards Options
Local Boards/Associations of REALTORS® offer multiple avenues for addressing a grievance against a REALTOR®. These avenues may include informal dispute resolution options - an ombudsman program or mediation, and formal dispute resolution options – arbitration and ethics complaints. Additional information on these services is below.
180 Day Limitation
With two exceptions, ethics complaints and arbitration requests must be filed within 180 daysafter the facts constituting the matter could have been known in the exercise of reasonable diligence or within one hundred eighty (180) days after the conclusion of the transaction or event, whichever is later. The deadline is suspended either 1) when mediation or use of the ombudsmen program is requested or 2) during the time the respondent ceases to be a REALTOR®. The timeframe resumes when mediation or the ombudsmen program ceases or the respondent again becomes a REALTOR®.
Mediation and Ombudsman Services
The Ombudsman Program in its simplest definition is informal telephone mediation. In some cases, it can address and solve minor complaints from the public. An Ombudsman can respond to general questions regarding real estate practices, transaction details, ethical practices and enforcement issues. The Ombudsmen Program is available to REALTORS®, clients of REALTORS®, and consumers.
Mediation is still informal but allows the disputing parties to meet in person with a neutral mediator. The mediator has no authority and is only there to help the parties resolve the dispute. Agreements signed during mediation are binding upon the parties similar to any contract.
Arbitration is an important tool for members, and sometimes consumers, to resolve disputes outside the courts but still in a formal setting. Arbitration is reserved for specific matters, usually related to disputes over commission.
REALTORS® agree to abide by the NAR Code of Ethics. If REALTORS® violate the Code, they may be subject to a complaint and hearings before REALTOR® peers.