Filing an ethics complaint
- Ethics complaints must be filed with the local board or association of REALTORS® within one hundred eighty (180) days from the time a complainant knew (or reasonably should have known) that potentially unethical conduct took place (unless the Board’s informal dispute resolution processes are invoked in which case the filing deadline will momentarily be suspended).
- The REALTORS® Code of Ethics consists of seventeen (17) Articles. The duties imposed by many of the Articles are explained and illustrated through accompanying Standards of Practice or case interpretations.
- Your complaint should include a narrative description of the circumstances that lead you to believe the Code of Ethics may have been violated.
- Your complaint must cite one or more of the Articles of the Code of Ethics which may have been violated- not whether standards of Practice or case interpretations were violated.
- OMCAR’s Grievance committee may provide technical assistance in preparing a complaint in proper form and with proper content.
Before the hearing
- Your complaint will be reviewed by OMCAR’s Grievance Committee. Their job is to review complaints to determine if the allegations made, if taken as true, might support a violation of the Article(s) cited in the complaint.
- If the Grievance Committee dismisses your complaint, it does not mean they don’t believe you. Rather, it means that they do not feel the allegations would support a hearing panel’s conclusion that the Article(s) cited in your complaint had been violated. You may want to review your complaint to see if you cited an Article appropriate to your allegations.
- If the Grievance Committee forwards your complaint for hearing, that does not mean they have decided the Code of Ethics has been violated. Rather, it means they feel that if what you allege in your complaint is found to have occurred by the hearing panel, that panel may have reason to find that the violation of the Code of Ethics occurred.
- If your complaint is dismissed as not requiring a hearing, you can appeal that dismissal to the board of directors of OMCAR.
- Complainants have the ultimate responsibility (“burden”) of proving that the Code of Ethics has been violated. The standard of proof that must be met is “clear, strong and convincing,” defined as, “…that measure or degree of proof which will produce a firm belief or conviction as to the allegations sought to be established.” Consistent with American jurisprudence, respondents are considered innocent unless proven to have violated the Code of Ethics.
- Organize your presentation in advance. Know what you are going to say and be prepared to demonstrate what happened and how you believe the Code of Ethics was violated.
At the hearing
- Hearing panels cannot conclude that an Article of the Code has been violated unless that Article(s) is specifically cited in the complaint.
- Hearing panels base their decisions on the evidence and testimony presented during the hearing. If you have information relevant to the issue(s) under consideration, be sure to bring it up during your presentation.
After the hearing
- When you receive the hearing panel’s decision, review it carefully.
- Findings of fact are the conclusions of impartial panel members based on their reasoned assessment of all of the evidence and testimony presented during the hearing. Findings of fact are not appealable.
- Many Ethics complaints result from misunderstanding or a failure in communication. Before filing an ethics complaint, make reasonable efforts to communicate with your real estate professional or a principal broker of the firm. If these efforts are not fruitful, OMCAR can give you the procedures and forms necessary to file an ethics complaint.