California Association of Realtors will out ‘Code of Ethics’ violators, but only to members

Names and photos of violators will appear on portion of website that's off-limits to public

As part of a campaign to increase professionalism in the real estate industry, the California Association of Realtors will soon publish the names and photos of members who violate the Realtor Code of Ethics in a members-only section of its website.

The National Association of Realtors’ board of directors has approved a pilot program in which CAR, the country’s largest state Realtor association with 165,000 members, will be allowed to create a statewide database of those disciplined for code of ethics violations and to publish their names, photos, and a brief synopsis of the violation and the disciplinary action received.

Unwanted attention image via Shutterstock.
Unwanted attention image via Shutterstock.

Professionalism is an ongoing concern in real estate and the Realtor Code of Ethics helps distinguish Realtors from non-Realtor licensees, according to Kevin Brown, CAR’s 2014 president.

The association wants to put in place a system that is transparent, reinforces the code, and keeps “bad actors” out of the business, Brown said.

“We just want to shine a light on the people that misbehave in our industry,” he said.

CAR also expects the program to boost members’ awareness of the code and the kinds of actions that could merit sanction. Seeing the name and photo of a fellow member, as well as what that person did, “grabs their attention” and can serve as an “educational moment” for members, Brown said.

CAR began compiling a disciplinary action database last year, taking publicly available information from California’s Bureau of Real Estate and publishing, in a members-only section of the association’s website, the names of those who violated the state-imposed California Business and Professions Code and summaries of violations for members. Consumers still have to go to the Bureau of Real Estate’s website for that information.

We just want to shine a light on the people that misbehave in our industry."

Under the pilot program approved by NAR’s board of directors Saturday, CAR will also compile and publish violations of the Realtor Code of Ethics, a set of professional conduct rules that applies only to Realtors.

CAR’s new ethics program also involves member surveys about unethical behavior, as well as educational initiatives designed to increase ethics awareness through webinars, social media, magazine articles and lectures.

“The main thing is that our members know what behavior is appropriate and what isn’t. They are required now to take code of ethics training, but sometimes people need to be reminded,” said June Barlow, CAR’s vice president and general counsel.

The database will help CAR pin down which aspects of the code are the most troublesome for members, she said.

“For example, advertising seems to be a big issue, so we’ll help people understand what those rules are,” Barlow said.

For instance, the code requires Realtors present a “true picture” in advertising. Some members may not be aware that that means agents who do not put their broker’s name on an ad or who advertise somebody else’s listings are in violation of the code, Barlow said.

Common ethics violations include some types of pocket listings; misrepresenting listings in the multiple listing service or in writing; not presenting all offers; double-ending a deal and putting other offers in a bad light; working in an area where the Realtor is not proficient; and not communicating information to other agents, according to a CAR webinar.

Currently, under NAR policy, each local association can publish — to their members, not the general public — the names of code of ethics violators who have been disciplined twice within the last three years or those who have been suspended or expelled.

Only some local associations have taken advantage of this authority. CAR’s pilot program would implement the policy statewide and expand the list of disciplinary actions that can be published.

Under the pilot program, warnings or stand-alone orders to take education classes will not be published. But all fines, reprimands, suspensions and expulsions will be, regardless of whether the offense is a first-time occurrence. All local associations in the state will be required to provide CAR with the names, photos and offenses of those disciplined for ethics violations.

And rather than appearing only on a local association site, that information will be displayed in the members-only section of the state association site, car.org.


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