SAN FRANCISCO — The National Association of Realtors has made changes to its code of ethics policies in recent months to boost professionalism among its members and is considering an additional change: requiring its 1.3 million members to complete code of ethics training every three years instead of every two years.
Five years ago, the trade group’s board of directors voted to require members to complete the training every two years, instead of the previous four years.
But NAR formed a presidential advisory group (PAG) comprised of 17 members after its annual conference last year to address challenges faced by local Realtor associations in administering the two-year requirement and the PAG has recommended that the requirement be changed to every three years and that the current two-year cycle end on Dec. 31, 2021.
In a handout provided to attendees of the Association Executives Forum at the Realtors Conference & Expo on Friday, the PAG explained its rationale, which reads, in part:
“Enforcement of the Code of Ethics training requirement can be labor intensive and often draws association staff away from performing other member services, such as consumer outreach and advocacy initiatives, leadership development, meetings/events, dues billing, etc. The every three-year timeframe allows adequate time between cycles for associations to focus on the valuable member services that are put on hold to administer the training requirement. The three-year timeframe is manageable and reasonable for members, many of whom must balance the Code of Ethics training requirement with continuing education requirements.”
PAG Chair Michael Labout said that a survey of local associations had found that, after the change to the two-year requirement, 71 percent were spending more staff time on implementation, 56 percent were seeing increased resistance from members and 29 percent reported an increased financial burden.
“The code of ethics is what sets us apart as Realtors from licensees. It is who are,” Labout told forum attendees, echoing NAR’s “That’s Who We R” marketing slogan.
“[The change to every three years] is not a reduction in the importance of the code of ethics … but it is a practical solution to an abundance of administrative issues,” he said.
No one at the AE Forum or the subsequent AE Committee meeting publicly objected to the change. Based on feedback from the AE Committee, the Professional Standards Committee and the Professional Development Committee, NAR’s leadership team may decide to present the recommended change to NAR’s board of directors on Monday.
Meanwhile, members learned at the AE Forum that NAR’s leadership team adopted five other PAG recommendations in September and made the changes effective immediately. These are:
- That learning objectives for code of ethics training be revised to include content on professional conduct, courtesies, business etiquette, and real-life scenarios. The rationale behind the change is that the majority of member complaints are related to violations of professional practices and courtesies, rather than ethical violations. “With an added focus on professionalism members will find greater value in the course as it impacts their day-to-day business operations,” the forum handout read.
- That NAR establish equivalency options for code of ethics training and that endorsement from its Commitment to Excellence (C2EX) program — the trade group’s voluntary professionalism program launched a year ago — be an equivalency option to satisfy the training requirement. The C2EX program “is designed to empower Realtors to evaluate, enhance, and showcase the highest levels of professionalism, which is in line with the proposed new focus for the Code of Ethics training course objectives and how that will impact members’ business,” the handout read.
- That only courses and equivalencies provided by a Realtor association — local, state or national — can satisfy the code of ethics training requirement. This change is meant to ensure courses are consistent and actually meet the mandatory learning requirements. The change doesn’t require Realtor associations to provide the training. They can partner with a provider to offer the training. The change means that a course provider who hasn’t partnered with a Realtor association can’t say they meet the requirement, PAG Vice-Chair Tracy Huotari told attendees, prompting some cheers and clapping.
- That NAR build a microsite that compiles all available options for fulfilling the code of ethics training requirement, including C2EX ethics modules and links to association-approved courses. Such a site will allow members to see all of their options and make an informed decision regarding how they will satisfy the training requirement, the handout read.
- That NAR’s core standards for local associations be amended to clarify associations’ duties in regards to administration of the code of ethics training requirement. For instance, local associations and providers must use NAR-approved training materials; associations must track training completions in NAR’s member database, NRDS; and members who do not comply with the training requirement must be suspended or terminated.
Huotari told the committee the NAR leadership team is working on implementation deadlines for the recommendations.