Filing an Ethics Complaint
REALTORS® are different from non-member licensees in that they voluntarily subscribe to a strict Code of Ethics. If you believe that a North Dakota REALTOR® has violated one or more Articles of the Code of Ethics, you can file an ethics complaint alleging a violation(s) through the North Dakota Association of REALTORS® (NDAR).
Below are instructions as well as several resources to help you understand what filing and processing an ethics complaint entails, and the general process you can expect when filing an ethics complaint with NDAR.
Before You File
A few things to keep in mind:
- Only REALTORS® and REALTOR-ASSOCIATES® 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.
- An ethics complaint will never result in financial compensation. If there is a monetary dispute and you hope to regain funds, we recommend North Dakota’s Small Claims Court.
NOTE: 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 your REALTOR®, 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 choose to move forward by filing an ethics complaint with the North Dakota Association of REALTORS®.
Mediation is NDAR’s preferred method of dispute resolution. NDAR offers mediation for consumer-REALTOR® and REALTOR®-REALTOR® conflicts free of charges as an informal dispute resolving process. If interested in resolving the dispute through mediation, rather than an ethics hearing, please contact NDAR for more information and to schedule a session with our trained mediator.
How to File an Ethics Complaint
- Review the Code of Ethics and determine which Articles may have been violated.
- Write a detailed narrative listing specific reasons you believe the Article(s) was violated.
- Gather documents to support your complaint, including any relevant transaction forms, photographs/videos, emails, etc.
NOTE: The Complainant has the burden of burden of proving that the Code of Ethics or other membership duty has been violated. The standard of proof, as described in the NAR Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual, must be “clear, strong, and convincing.”
- Complete Form #E-1 – Ethics Complaint (contact email@example.com to receive a copy of this form) and submit all materials to NDAR.
Per NAR policy, ethics complaints must be filed with the North Dakota Association of REALTORS® within one hundred eighty (180) days from the time the Complainant knew (or reasonably should have known) that potentially unethical conduct took place.
If the Grievance Panel ultimately decides to move the complaint forward to a hearing, the Complainant is required to attend the hearing. If the Complainant fails to or refuses to attend the hearing, the complaint will be dismissed.
For more information on alternatives to consider before filing an ethics complaint, as well as what to expect after filing a complaint, you can click here.