REALTOR® Code of Ethics & Our Complaint Process
Filing an Ethics Complaint
Once received, a copy of the complaint and all related materials will be sent to the respondent, who will have 14 days to submit a reply. Once this reply is received by SEBAR a complete copy is forwarded to the Complainant. When confirmation that the complainant desires to continue with their complaint, all materials related to the complaint are forwarded to the SEBAR 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 SEBAR office, 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 SEBAR 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 $5,000, a period of suspension of member services or a termination of board membership, or a combination of two or more of the above.
The Ethics Complaint process may take between two and three months, allowing a reasonable time for responses, review by the Grievance Committee, scheduling of the hearing, and for adoption of the hearing panel recommendations by the Board of Directors.
Filing for Arbitration
To file for the arbitration of a commission dispute, you must use the Request and Agreement to Arbitrate Form A-1. On this form you must state the specific amount of your dispute. Your request for arbitration should include a supporting typewritten narrative or chronological summary of the events that occurred, as well as copies of any documents you feel will support your claim. Once the Request and Agreement to Arbitrate and supporting materials are assembled, submit them to the Southeastern Border Association of REALTORS®, along with a check for $500 payable to SEBAR.
A copy of your Request and Agreement to Arbitrate will then be forwarded to the respondent, who will have 14 days to submit their response and deposit. The arbitration request fee of $500 will be collected from both parties to the dispute. Once SEBAR receives the response, all related case materials are forwarded to the Grievance Committee for their review. The Grievance Committee's responsibility is to review the case and, based on certain guidelines they must follow, determine if the dispute is properly the subject of arbitration and referred to a Professional Standards Committee for an arbitration hearing. Once the case is referred to hearing, a panel will be selected from the Professional Standards Committee to hear the case. The formal hearing, held at the SEBAR office, is set for a time mutually convenient for both parties.
The arbitration process may take between sixty to ninety days, allowing a reasonable time for correspondence, for review by the Grievance Committee, and then for scheduling of the arbitration hearing. Some cases that may involve more than one Realtor® Association could take longer. Note: Because commissions are paid directly to brokers, if an agent has concern for an arbitration they must understand that the brokers must be the individuals to file for arbitration, not the agent involved in the transaction. Agents may be listed in the Request and Agreement to Arbitrate Form A-1 as supplemental individuals for hearing purposes.
Note: Once a Request for Arbitration is forwarded to the Professional Standards Committee, the dispute is eligible for the alternative board mediation service.
The Southeastern Border Association of REALTORS® has adopted voluntary mediation as an alternative method for resolving disputes. As a voluntary alternative, mediation is strongly encouraged but not mandatory.
Who May Mediate?
Any REALTOR® entitled to invoke SEBAR’s arbitration facilities may also use SEBAR’s mediation service once a dispute has been determined by the Grievance Committee to be properly the subject of arbitration.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of facilitated negotiation, conducted in a more informal setting, by which a trained and experienced third party helps the disputing parties to reach a mutually acceptable resolution.
What are the Advantages of Mediation?
Mediation enables the parties to determine promptly whether there is a possibility of settling the dispute. Mediation saves time. Mediation can salvage relationships. Since both parties consent to the mediation, the ultimate solution is in the hands of the parties - rather than a hearing panel.
How Can I Obtain SEBAR’s Service of Mediation?
Once SEBAR’s Grievance Committee has determined that a Request for Arbitration is properly subject to arbitration, and both parties have notified SEBAR of their willingness to mediate, one of SEBAR’s mediators will contact them. The mediator will arrange for a time that is convenient to both parties to come to the SEBAR office for the mediation. If an agreement is reached through mediation, both parties will be asked to sign a written agreement, and each party’s $500 arbitration fee will be refunded. Failure to reach agreement through mediation will not be considered by a hearing panel during any subsequent arbitration hearing.
For more information regarding Mediation, please contact Shannon Harner, Association Executive with the Southeastern Border Association of REALTORS®.
Additional Mediation Services
The Southeastern Border Association of REALTORS encourages members, consumers and everyone involved in a real estate transaction to engage in any mediation process before looking to a court related process. We are happy to partner with National Center for Dispute Settlement (NCDS). Feel free to reach out to NCDS at 586-226-2470 or by visiting their website at www.ncdsusa.org.