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.
REQUEST FOR MEDIATION
What is the Ombudsman Program?
The Ombudsman Program in its simplest definition is informal telephone mediation. In some cases, it can address and solve minor complaints from the public. It can also solve inter-Realtor® conflicts before they become serious problems. Like a mediator, an ombudsman helps parties find solutions.
This free program is available to CCAR members, their clients and customers.
How Can I Request Ombudsman Services?
Please compile the following information:
- Name, contact information, and role of the complainant (that is, buyer, seller, broker, etc.)
- Name, contact information, and role of the respondent
- A description of the conflict
E-mail the information to Professional Standards Administrator, Wendy Watkins. An Ombudsman will be assigned to you and will attempt to contact you within two business days. All contact will be initiated by the Ombudsman. You are never to contact the Ombudsman directly.