The Realtor community is split about whether or not to publicize the names of Realtors who violate the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) Realtor Code of Ethics.

The Realtor community is split about whether or not to publicize the names of Realtors who violate the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) Realtor Code of Ethics.

Real estate professionals who are members of Realtor associations — roughly 1.3 million nationwide — are required by NAR to abide by its code of ethics and complete training on the Realtor Code of Ethics every two years. The preamble of that code reads:

“In recognition and appreciation of their obligations to clients, customers, the public, and each other, [Realtors] continuously strive to become and remain informed on issues affecting real estate and, as knowledgeable professionals, they willingly share the fruit of their experience and study with others. They identify and take steps, through enforcement of this Code of Ethics and by assisting appropriate regulatory bodies, to eliminate practices which may damage the public or which might discredit or bring dishonor to the real estate profession.”

Violations to the Realtor Code of Ethics include: not treating all parties in a transaction fairly, misleading owners as to market value, misleading buyers as to savings or benefits used by retaining a Realtor, not submitting all offers to landlords or owners and failing to protect confidential consumer information, among others.

A recent story in the Chicago Tribune wondered: “Should info on Realtors’ ethics violations be available to the public?” The piece has drawn a mixed reaction from many in the Realtor community. What do you think? Vote in Inman’s poll:

State and local associations have always been allowed to publish the names of violators — as long as the violation was the second offense occurring within three years and the publication was in a medium where only members have access.

At the association’s midyear meeting in Washington, D.C., NAR’s board of directors voted to make a change, however, to allow state and local associations to more frequently publish, to their members, the names and photographs of Realtors who violate the code. One thing that’s remained constant is that the decision to publish names and offenses is left to state and local associations.

The Realtor community is split over whether or not the names of violators should be made public to other Realtors at all. And if it’s information that other Realtors can access, should the public have a right to it as well?

“I would have no problem with full disclosure of ethics violations,” wrote Mark Pheifer, Realtor and associate broker at Smart Growth Living Fathom Realty in a Facebook post on Inman Coast to Coast. “I believe all violations should be disclosed as even the smallest violation goes to the character of an agent.”

Jeff Lobb, founder and CEO of SparkTank Media, wondered why Realtors can publicly brag about how great they are through reviews, but if that same agent was found unethical by a board of their peers, why should it be kept a secret?

Mischa Martineau, founder and creative director of Martineau Marketing, posted, “All violations should be discoverable, in their entirety, for consumer discernment.”

Others took a bit of a softer stance, and some fell right in line with what many state and local associations currently do.

“I think mistakes happen and that a single violation shouldn’t be publicly published unless severe,” said Aaron Dickinson, a Realtor with Edina Realty on Facebook. “Repeat violations should be published.”

“Realtor ethics violations should be kept confidential, but a violation of law should be public,” added Ron Maizer, a Realtor and broker with Maizer Realty, in the same Facebook discussion.

Miriam Bernstein, a Realtor and broker-owner at New Orleans Property Lady, thinks making the issues public, but not shaming the agents and brokers involved, could make the violation a teachable moment for others.

“I would like to see the issues posted, the penalties received and not the names of the agents/brokers involved,” posted Bernstein on Facebook. “It can be used to teach what types of issues are brought forward and what the outcome was, which might help persuade individuals that yes the system works. In my view, there is no need to publicly discuss who the violator was.”

Teresa Boardman, a Realtor and broker-owner of Boardman Realty sits on the ethics committee of the Minnesota Association of Realtors and hears the complaints. She said it’s complicated.

“On the one hand, it is self-policing and most of the complaints are Realtor-on-Realtor type transgressions,” posted Boardman, on Facebook. “Often there is no direct harm to consumers but occasionally there is. It is during those times that I wonder why the agent’s broker doesn’t let him or her go.”

Email Patrick Kearns

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