Filing an Ethics Complaint & FAQ
In order for an ethics complaint to be processed, a formal complaint must be filed using the Ethics Complaint Form E-1 (PDF). If you are completing this form, you will need to refer to the Code of Ethics (PDF) of the National Association of REALTORS® to determine which Article(s) you believe have been violated.
Your complaint should include a supporting typewritten narrative or chronological summary of the events giving rise to your complaint.
Once the Ethics Complaint Form E-1 is complete, and any supporting documents are attached, submit it to Columbus REALTORS®, 2700 Airport Dr., Columbus, Ohio 43219.
Once the complaint is received by Columbus REALTORS® a complete copy is forwarded to the Columbus REALTORS® Grievance Committee for review. The Grievance Committee's responsibility is to review the case materials and, based on a certain set of guidelines they must follow, determine if the facts presented in the complaint warrant a hearing.
If the case is referred to hearing, a panel of Professional Standards Committee members will be appointed to hear the case. This panel will determine if the Code of Ethics has been violated. The formal hearing, usually held at the Columbus REALTORS® office, and will be set for a time mutually convenient for all parties. If the hearing panel, as a result of the ethics hearing, determines that the member has violated the Code of Ethics, they may recommend disciplinary action to Columbus REALTORS® Board of Directors. Such disciplinary actions may require the respondent to complete an appropriate education class; may prescribe a letter of warning or reprimand; may impose a fine of up to $15,000, a period of suspension of member services or a termination of association membership, or a combination of two or more of the above. Additionally, a member found to have violated the Code of Ethics is also charged an administrative fee of $500.
The Ethics Complaint process may take approximately two and three months, allowing a reasonable time for review by the Grievance Committee, scheduling of the hearing, and for adoption of the hearing panel recommendations by the Board of Directors.
FAQs about Ethics Complaints
Is there a statute of limitations for filing ethics complaints?
Yes. The time period is 180 days from the time that you could have known, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, the facts giving rise to your complaint.
How do I know whether to file an ethics complaint or to request arbitration?
Generally, ethics complaints are filed about behavior; arbitration is requested when there is a dispute over real estate commissions.
Can I file an arbitration request and an ethics complaint at the same time?
Yes. Both case types can be filed at the same time. If the Grievance Committee determines that both cases warrant hearings, the arbitration hearing will be held first.
I'd like to file a complaint, but what about confidentiality?
All ethics complaints are kept strictly confidential. Only the staff involved in the administration of cases, members of the Grievance Committee, and the Professional Standards Committee members assigned to the hearing panel will have access to ethics complaints.
Is there a special form I should use when filing an ethics complaint?
File an ethics complaint using Ethics Complaint Form E-1 (PDF), available from Columbus REALTORS®. This form must be accompanied by your typewritten narrative or chronological summary describing the events that occurred.
Where do I submit the ethics complaint?
Submit your complaint via regular mail to Columbus REALTORS®, 2700 Airport Drive, Columbus OH 43219.
Will the person who I'm filing against be notified of my complaint?
Yes. If after its review the Grievance Committee determines a hearing is warranted, the respondent and their broker are notified of the Committee's decision.
How do I know which Article of the Code of Ethics to name in my complaint?
The Code of Ethics (PDF) is supported by Standards of Practice, which can help explain the types of behavior covered by each Article.
Do I name the Article, or the Standard of Practice, in my complaint?
Ethics complaints should be filed based on alleged violation of specific Articles of the Code of Ethics (PDF). You may, however, identify appropriate Standards of Practice in support of your complaint.
What if the respondent is not a member of Columbus REALTORS®?
Ethics complaints are filed with the Columbus REALTORS® where the responding party holds membership.
Who establishes the rules that Columbus REALTORS® follows in handling ethics complaints?
Columbus REALTORS® is required to follow the guidelines and procedures outlined in the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual of the National Association of REALTORS®.
How long does the process take?
If an ethics complaint goes to a hearing, the process may take 2-3 months. This is because of the time that must be allowed, review by the Grievance Committee, proper notification, and scheduling of the hearing.
What happens if a REALTOR is found in violation of the Code of Ethics?
If the hearing panel finds a member to be in violation of the Code of Ethics (PDF), they may recommend that the Board of Directors impose disciplinary sanctions. Each case provides the Hearing Panel's decision based on the facts and the rationale for the decision, but does not specify a specific sanction or discipline to be imposed. There are two reasons for this.
- Any sanction imposed must always fit the offense and must involve every consideration of justice, equity, and propriety.
- A Hearing Panel may base its recommendation for discipline on a Member's past record of ethics violations.
The Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual establishes that a Member Board/Association may utilize a wide range of sanctions for ethics violations. These sanctions include:
- Letter of Warning with copy to be placed in Member's file;
- Letter of Reprimand with copy to be placed in Member's file;
- Requirement that Member attend the ethics portion of the association Indoctrination Course or other appropriate course or seminar specified by the Hearing Panel, which the respondent could reasonably attend taking into consideration cost, location, and duration;
- $500 Administrative Hearing Fee
- Appropriate and reasonable fine not to exceed $15,000;
- Member placed on probation for a stated period of time not less than thirty (30) days but no more than one (1) year;
- Membership of individual suspended for a stated period not to exceed one (1) year, with automatic reinstatement of membership in good standing at the end of the specified period of suspension (decision should be written clearly articulating all intended consequences, including denial of MLS participatory or access privileges).
REALTOR® Code of Ethics