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 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 or check the Association Directory.
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 Department 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.
For violations of the Code of Ethics, the association may discipline its REALTOR® members. Such discipline may involve letters of warning or reprimand, require appropriate education relevant to the violation, impose fines and/or suspend or terminate association membership for serious or repeated violations. The Association may not require REALTORS® to pay the complainant(s) monetary or punitive damages and cannot revoke a real estate license.
Filing an Ethics Complaint
To file a complaint you must:
- Complete, sign and date the Ethics Complaint Form, which you may download and print from this website. (Ethics complaints must be filed with the Association within 180 days of the time the complainant knew– or reasonably should have known—that potentially unethical conduct took place).
- Check the Article(s) of the Code of Ethics believed violated. The articles are illustrated through Standards of Practice, but the Standard of Practice may only be used as support for the Article(s) being charged. The Article number(s) must be cited.
- Include a narrative description of the circumstances and facts surrounding the complaint, being as specific as possible.
- Attach copies of all relevant documents such as listing and sales contracts, letters etc. labeling these as Exhibit 1, etc.
- Make 12 copies of the complaint package and forward it to the Professional Standards Coordinator of the Association which has jurisdiction over the complainant.