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” turn out to be relatively “easy” or straight-forward 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. test
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.
Get Answers to Your Questions by Visiting the Ombudsman FAQs
To Request Ombudsman Assistance, Click Here
Voluntary and Mandatory Mediation
The Greater Boston Real Estate Board and the Greater Boston Association of REALTORS® encourage the use of mediation as a first-step toward resolution of conflicts and disputes arising out of real estate business transactions, as defined in Article 17 of the Code of Ethics and further explained in Standard of Practice 17-4.
Mediation is an informal dispute resolution process in which a trained, neutral third-party (the mediator), helps the disputing parties find and reach a mutually acceptable settlement of their dispute. In 2106, the GBAR Board of Directors adopted the National Association of REALTORS® mandatory mediation requirement which requires that all parties who file for mandatory arbitration attempt to resolve their dispute through mediation prior to going to arbitration. GBAR Mediators have a great track record in working with parties to resolve their commission disputes before the formal arbitration hearing, resulting in less time, effort and emotions than found with pursuing the “win/lose” solution provided by arbitration.
Any arbitration request filed at GBAR is offered voluntary mediation prior to review of the complaint by the Grievance Committee. However, once a complaint is reviewed and approved for forwarding to a Hearing Panel by our Grievance Committee, those who have not already attempted to resolve their dispute through mediation will be required to attend a mediation conference. If the conference is not successful, an arbitration hearing will then be scheduled. There are numerous advantages to choosing mediation over arbitration, including: maintaining positive working relationships, as well as saving time and money. Please see the chart below for additional advantages.
Note: If a principal broker files for only mediation and a satisfactory resolution of the matter is not obtained, GBAR will not automatically schedule an arbitration hearing. It is up to the parties to invoke arbitration, which involves the formal filing of arbitration paperwork as well as paying a $500 filing fee. The 180-day filing “window” does stop each time mediation is attempted and will resume upon notification that the mediation was not successful, however.
Mediation between REALTORS® (principals) and/or their clients is a voluntary process, requiring the consent and agreement of both parties
| Informal meeting (ideally it is between the broker/manager) of the two firms and one mediation officer
| Formal hearing with witnesses, attorneys, three to five panel members, formal statements
| Open discussion between the parties
|Formal swearing in, testimony
| All parties agree to the decision
Relationship has opportunity to stay intact
|One party will be entitled to the commission
Only the prevailing party will be happy
| If an agreement can NOT be reached between the parties, the issue will be sent to a hearing, however, no discussion at the mediation will be admissible at the formal hearing
| The panel decides who gets the money
No appeal- you get only one chance
| Leave knowing the results
1-2 months for resolve
No charge if resolved
| Must wait for the results to be mailed as certified mail
4-6 months for resolve
$500 billing fee per party
It must be understood by all parties that unless they have already voluntarily participated in a mediation conference, mediation becomes mandatory after a complaint has been forwarded to the Arbitration Hearing Panel. The parties should participate in the mediation process in good faith, and, any resolution is binding upon the parties. Parties to a mediation may withdraw from the process at any point prior to reaching an agreement. Any offers of settlement that were not accepted or any suggested resolution proposed by the Mediation Officer that was not accepted will not be introduced as evidence nor considered in any manner should the matter require arbitration by the Board’s Professional Standards Committee. However, if the parties agree to a settlement of the dispute, and the settlement has been reduced to writing and has been signed by all of the parties, the matter is deemed resolved and cannot be the subject of a subsequent arbitration hearing. In the event either of the parties later fails to abide by the terms of the settlement, the matter may not be arbitrated; instead, the other party should be encouraged to have the settlement judicially enforced by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Request for Mediation