One thing is true about the Realtor Code of Ethics – it’s a living document that is always being tuned for the current market. Since it’s inception in 1913 the “Code” has been updated 35 times and consistently every year since 1986. This year was no different. There is only one significant change this year to Article 10, and six “tweaks” to other portions. This post will cover those changes.
Article 10 Amendment – Protection of Sexual Orientation
REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, or sexual orientation. REALTORS® shall not be parties to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, or sexual orientation. (Amended 1/11)
REALTORS®, in their real estate employment practices, shall not discriminate against any person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, or sexual orientation. (Amended 1/11)
This was a pretty obvious and long coming change to the Code of Ethics. Effective January 1, 2011 Realtors will be required to protect clients from discrimination based on their Sexual Orientation. The issue that Realtors should remember is that this is not a Federally protected class, so only Realtors and not non-Realtor licensees or even those homeowners with more than 3 homes, are obligated to abide by this protection.
It’s been a long held belief of the Association of Realtors that there should be no unnecessary barriers to home ownership or renting. Agents need to be very diligent in informing their clients of this protection.
Standard of Practice Amendment – Sexual Orientation Protected in Marketing
To support the change to Article 10, Standard of Practice 10-3 has been amended to prevent marketing materials from discrimination in marketing.
• Standard of Practice 10-3
REALTORS® shall not print, display or circulate any statement or advertisement with respect to selling or renting of a property that indicates any preference, limitations or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, or sexual orientation. (Adopted 1/94, Renumbered 1/05 and 1/06, Amended 1/11)
Standard of Practice 3-7 Change – Relationship Status
Standard of Practice 3-7
When seeking information from another REALTOR® concerning property under a management or listing agreement, REALTORS® shall disclose their REALTOR® status and whether their interest is personal or on behalf of a client and, if on behalf of a client, their
representational statusrelationship with the client.
This clarifying amendment acknowledges that in some instances a REALTOR® seeking information on behalf of a client may not be "representing" that client. For example, a REALTOR® performing an appraisal assignment for a client does not "represent" the client but would still be obligated to disclose their relationship with the client to the REALTOR® from whom information is being requested.
Adopted Standard of Practice 3-10 – Define Cooperation
Standard of Practice 3-10
The duty to cooperate established in Article 3 relates to the obligation to share information on listed property, and to make property available to other brokers for showing to prospective purchasers when it is in the best interests of the seller.
This proposal is based on the definition of cooperation previously approved by the NAR Board of Directors that is published in the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual. It will provide a more visible explanation, assisting REALTORS® in understanding what Article 3’s duty of cooperation requires of them.
Standard of Practice 12-5 Amendment – Disclosed Based on Limitations
This is my favorite and most reasonable change. I know that the Virginia Real Estate Board is also looking at changes to the Administrative Code to reflect the evolving and emerging technology.
Standard of Practice 12-5
REALTORS® shall not advertise nor permit any person employed by or affiliated with them to advertise real estate services or listed property in any medium (e.g., electronically, print, radio,television, etc.) without disclosing the name of that REALTOR®’s firm in a reasonable and readily apparent manner. This Standard of Practice acknowledges that disclosing the name of the firm may not be practical in electronic displays of limited information (e.g. “thumbnails”, text messages, “tweets”, etc.). Such displays are exempt from the disclosure requirement established in this Standard of Practice but only when linked to a display that includes all required disclosures.
This proposed amendment to Standard of Practice 12-5 is based on REALTORS®’ increasing use of electronic communications to advertise their real estate services and listed property. In some instances, the limitations on the amount of text that can be included in such communications make compliance with the Standard of Practice’s disclosure requirement impossible within the context of a specific message. In such cases, the Standard would permit compliance with the duty to disclose the firm’s name through a link to a display that makes all required disclosures.
Adoption of Standard of Practice 15-2 and 15-3 – Obligations to Other Professionals
This is also another change that is long time in coming. I’ve always thought it funny that certain “ethical” duties were only obligations to other Realtors and not to other non-Realtor licensees. I mean if it’s ethical, isn’t it always ethical? These two related changes are a fundamental focus for this Article. It’s also indicative of changing the focus from other agents being an adversary, but instead another professional. We’re all in this thing together!
Standard of Practice 15-2
The obligation to refrain from making false or misleading statements about
competitorsother real estate professionals, competitors’their businesses, and competitors’their business practices includes the duty to not knowingly or recklessly publish, repeat, retransmit, or republish false or misleading statements made by others. This duty applies whether false or misleading statements are repeated in person, in writing, by technological means (e.g., the Internet), or by any other means.
Standard of Practice 15-3
The obligation to refrain from making false or misleading statements about
competitorsother real estate professionals, competitors’their businesses, and competitors’their business practices includes the duty to publish a clarification about or to remove statements made by others on electronic media the REALTOR® controls once the REALTOR® knows the statement is false or misleading.
These amendments to Article 15, and to Standards of Practice 15-2 and 15-3, establish that even in cases where a real estate professional may not be a REALTOR®’s "competitor", the duty to refrain from knowingly or recklessly making false or misleading statements still applies. For instance, a REALTOR® engaging in appraisal might not be the competitor of a REALTOR® engaging in property management, but one would still be barred from knowingly or recklessly making false or misleading statements about the other.
For those of you who are reading this and are Virginia members of the Fredericksburg Area Association of Realtors, Prince William Association of Realtors, Dulles Association of Realtors, Northern Virginia Association or Realtors or Greater Piedmont Association of Realtors; you’ll also see a new change in how Ethics complaints are handled.
In 2010 theses Associations have adopted a Citation program that will allow certain Ethical Complaints be handled with a payment of fines, in lieu of a hearing, based on a pre-determined schedule. This new program takes effect in 2011. There will be a more informative and detailed post on this in the next few weeks.