Columbus REALTORS® receives occasional inquiries from buyers or sellers seeking information about how the typical real estate transaction should work, what they should expect from their real estate agent/broker, and whether their own recent experience is typical. Some of these callers may be considering filing ethics complaints or seeking other redress of their concerns.
If the transaction is still underway, Columbus REALTORS® can put the caller in touch with an experienced volunteer ombudsperson who can answer general transaction questions and help clarify the real estate sales process. With the help of the ombudsperson it often becomes clear that the actions of the agent probably do not rise to a level that might warrant an ethics complaint but might suggest a lack of communication or an “expectations gap.”
Ombudspersons address and resolve minor complaints from the public and may also be able to help solve inter-REALTOR® conflicts before they grow into more serious problems. Like an informal telephone mediator, the ombudsperson tries to help parties find solutions that save relationships and transactions.
Is there a fee for Ombudsperson Service?
There is no fee to request the assistance of a volunteer ombudsperson. When a phone call is received by Columbus REALTORS® and the caller is interested in the services of an ombudsperson, the Professional Standards Administrator assigns the next available ombudsperson on a rotating basis.
What does an ombudsperson do?
The ombudsperson will make every effort to call a person requesting ombudsperson services within 24 hours. They listen, ask and answer questions, and with permission of the complainant, they will confidentially contact the member broker and agent involved, and let them know about the request for help. The ombudsperson will try to obtain any information that may help provide an informed response. They will answer general real estate questions, explain possible avenues for resolution of problems, and try to ascertain the caller’s desired outcome. Finally, they may also answer questions about the association’s ethics complaint or arbitration process.
The goal is to help resolve small problems before they become larger problems that could negatively impact the transaction and lead to ethics and arbitration hearings.
What doesn't an ombudsperson do?
The Ombudsperson will not make any decisions about who is right or wrong and will not give legal advice. They will not disclose any communications without permission, as the process is considered confidential. They will only accept calls or inquiries about ombuds services that are referred through Columbus REALTORS®.
Ombudspersons will not solicit or accept a complainant’s business. Ombudspersons do not text or email, accept documents, or keep records.
Ombudspersons can NOT bring a case to the association’s Grievance Committee, the MLS Committee or to any regulatory body, unless there is perceived violation of the public trust. Additionally, the ombudsperson cannot be called to appear as a witness in any related ethics or arbitration hearing conducted under the association’s professional standards procedures.
What happens if the Ombudsperson process does not work?
Should the member involved not respond to inquiries from the Ombudsperson, or not undertake actions to satisfy the complaint, the ombudsperson will then inform the complainant of other options open to them that they may then initiate on their own.
Those options may include seeking legal advice; in the event of a monetary dispute, considering mediation and arbitration; filing a formal ethics complaint with Columbus REALTORS® or filing a complaint with the Ohio Division of Real Estate & Professional Licensing.
For more information on the Ombudsman Service offered by Columbus REALTORS® please call us at (614) 475-4000, extension 228, or email [email protected].