The Missoula Organization of REALTORS and it's Board are responsible for enforcing the REALTORS Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics imposes duties above and in addition to those imposed by law or regulation which apply only to real estate professionals who choose to become REALTORS
Before filing a REALTOR® Complaint
Many difficulties between real estate professionals (whether REALTORS® or not) result from misunderstanding, miscommunication, or lack of adequate communication. If you have a problem with a real estate professional, you may want to speak with them or with a principal broker in the firm. Open, constructive discussion often resolves questions or differences, eliminating the need for further action.
If, after discussing matters with your real estate professional or a principal broker in that firm, you are still not satisfied, you may want to contact the real estate professional's local board or association of REALTORS® (such as MOR). Many boards and associations have informal dispute resolving processes available to consumers (e.g. ombudsmen, mediation, etc.).
If, after taking these steps, you still feel you have a grievance, you many want to consider filing an ethics complaint. Please keep the following in mind:
- Only REALTORS® and REALTOR-ASSOCIATE®s are subject to the Code of Ethics of the National Association of REALTORS®.
- If the real estate professional (or their broker) you are dealing with is not a REALTOR®, your only recourse may be the state real state licensing authority or the courts.
- Boards and associations of REALTORS® determine whether the Code of Ethics has been violated, not whether the law or real estate regulations have been broken. Those decisions can only be made by the licensing authorities or the courts.
- Boards of REALTORS® can discipline REALTORS® for violating the Code of Ethics. Typical forms of discipline include attendance at courses and seminars designed to increase REALTORS®’ understanding of the ethical duties or other responsibilities of real estate professionals. REALTORS® may also be reprimanded, fined, or their membership can be suspended or terminated for serious or repeated violations. Boards and associations of REALTORS® cannot require REALTORS® to pay money to parties filing ethics complaints; cannot award “punitive damages” for violations of the Code of Ethics; and cannot suspend or revoke a real estate professional’s license.
- The primary emphasis of discipline for ethical lapses is educational, to create a heightened awareness of and appreciation for the duties the Code imposes. At the same time, more severe forms of discipline, including fines and suspension and termination of membership may be imposed for serious or repeated violations.
*In your initial email to professional standards staff, please provide a brief description of your complaint, and your contact information.
Filing a REALTOR® Complaint
Mediation is a process in which third-party neutral assists in resolving a dispute between two or more other parties. It is a non-adversarial approach to conflict resolution. The role of the mediator is to facilitate communication between the parties, assist them in focusing on the real issues of the dispute, and generate options that meet the interests or needs of all relevant parties in an effort to resolve the conflict.
Unlike arbitration, where the intermediary listens to the arguments of both sides and makes a decision for the disputants, a mediator assists the parties to develop a solution themselves. Although mediators sometimes provide ideas, suggestions, or even formal proposals for settlement, the mediator is primarily a “process person,” helping the parties define the agenda, identify and reframe the issues, communicate more effectively, find areas of common ground, negotiate fairly, and hopefully, reach an agreement. A successful mediation effort has an outcome that is accepted and owned by the parties themselves.
There’s a difference between an Ethics complaint and a request for Arbitration. Arbitration is a way to resolve a dispute related to a monetary transaction, like a question of who was or was not paid, or what amount someone may be owed.
With Arbitration, a third party makes a decision regarding money questions. Each side presents its case to a panel and, based on the evidence, the panel makes a decision about the disputed funds.
Requests for arbitration may be filed by REALTORS® and secondary members who are not principal brokers, or by REALTORS® or secondary members who are not principals, provided their principal broker joins in the request or by clients or customers of the REALTORS®.
Be aware that not every situation or dispute may be arbitrated by the association. Also remember that the award in an Arbitration may not exceed the amount in dispute and in no cases are there “punitive” damages awarded.
An ombudsman is an individual appointed to receive and resolve disputes through constructive communication and advocating for consensus and understanding.
Ombudsman procedures are intended to provide enhanced communications and initial problem-solving capacity at the local level. All associations must provide ombudsman services to their members and members’ clients and customers consistent with Professional Standards Policy Statement #59, Associations to Provide Ombudsmen Services, Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual.
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 or who is entitled to what amount of money, rather they anticipate, identify, and resolve misunderstandings and disagreements before matters ripen into disputes and possible charges of unethical conduct.
Ombudsmen can field and respond to a wide variety of inquires and complaints, including general questions about real estate practice, transaction details, ethical practice, and enforcement issues. Ombudsmen can also receive and respond to questions and complaints about members; can contact members to inform them that a client or customer has raised a question or issue; and can contact members to obtain information necessary to provide an informed response.
In cases where an ombudsman believes that a failure of communication is the basis for a question or complaint, the ombudsman can arrange a meeting of the parties and to facilitate a mutually acceptable resolution.
Where a written ethics complaint in the appropriate form is received, it can be initially referred to the ombudsman who will attempt to resolve the matter.
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 referred to ethics mediation (if available), or considered at a formal ethics hearing.
Confidentiality of Ombudsman Process
The allegations, discussions and decisions made in ombudsman proceedings are confidential and shall not be reported or published by the board, any member of a tribunal, or any party under any circumstances except those established in the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual of the National Association as from time to time amended.