Q&A: Ethics Training Requirements for New and Continuing Members

Last updated: November 2017

Mandatory ethics training requirements for new and continuing REALTOR® members was established by the National Association’s Board of Directors at the 1999 Annual Convention with the following goals:

  • to heighten member awareness of the key tenets of the Code of Ethics;
  • to create an awareness of and appreciation for the role the Code can and should play in their professional lives;
  • to enhance professionalism and competency; and
  • to encourage REALTORS® to view their Code of Ethics as a living, viable guide in their daily dealings with clients, customers, and the public.

This requirement went into effect Jan. 1, 2001. For more information, visit the main page for Code of Ethics Training.

Answers to commonly asked questions on implementing and administering the requirements follow.

Access a Microsoft Word version of these questions and answers.

The Requirements

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Courses/Training

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Tracking/Recordkeeping

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Enforcement

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As​sociation Responsibilities

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The Requirements

1-1 (Question deleted 11/08)

1-1.1 What training is offered by the National Association of REALTORS®?

The National Association of REALTORS® offers several online training options available through nar.realtor. First, there is a new continuing education (CE) option for $29.95. Second, a new revamped existing member course (non CE) will be available late 2016. It will include customized elections selected by students based on their interests, and three available tracks: 1) residential, 2) commercial, and 3) appraisal. Third, NAR offers a new member orientation online for new member applicants. Check here for these training options.

1-2 What if a REALTOR® transfers her membership to another association to avoid the mandatory training requirement?

Transferring membership doesn’t diminish the need to comply with the requirement during each two-year cycle. Experience to date has been that no significant number of REALTORS® have changed their local association affiliation simply to avoid taking two and a half hours of ethics training.

1-3 When does a member’s two-year cycle start?

The applicable dates are the same for all REALTORS® irrespective of when they join. The current cycle ends December 31, 2016. Future cycles will be two years in duration and the next cycle begins January 1, 2017 and ends December 31, 2018. (revised 06/13)

1-4 Do REALTORS® engaged in nonresidential fields have to comply?

Yes. Because all REALTORS® subscribe to the Code of Ethics and are bound by its obligations, it is important for them to remain familiar with the Code on an ongoing basis.

1-5 Does the Society of Industrial and Office REALTORS® course meet the requirements?

Yes.

1-5a Does the CCIM online ethics training program satisfy the requirements?

Yes. (added 11/08)

1-6 What responsibility do REALTORS® have for informing their association that they have met the requirement?

Membership requirements are established in each local association’s bylaws. As a matter of local discretion, local associations may establish reporting requirements, particularly with respect to training provided by other entities. As a practical matter, REALTORS® will want to take reasonable steps to ensure that their association is aware that they have met the training requirement.

1-7 If a REALTOR® takes the New Member training during a two-year cycle, can she also be required to meet the REALTORS® Code of Ethics Training requirement during the same two-year cycle?

No.

1-8 If an existing REALTOR® inadvertently completes NAR’s new member online ethics training course, instead of the training course for existing members, does that fulfill the requirement to take a course for existing members?

Yes.

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Courses/Training

2-1 If a local association develops its own course materials, do they have to be submitted to NAR for approval? If “yes,” what is the approval process?

No, the policy does not require NAR approval of training programs developed by local or state associations. The learning objectives and minimum criteria in the policy were created for the express purpose of giving local and state associations clear guidance and assistance in determining exactly what must be addressed in any training course or program. That said, the NAR Professional Standards Committee has authority to make a determination in the unlikely event a complaint is brought under Article IV, Section 2 of the NAR Bylaws alleging that an association was crediting members with meeting the requirement when a course clearly doesn’t meet the criteria established in the policy.

2-2 What types of educational formats are acceptable for presenting new and REALTORS® ethics training to our members (e.g. online courses, video-based instruction, live “classroom” instruction)?

As noted in the Policy Statements, associations have wide latitude in determining how they will assist their REALTOR® members in meeting their training obligations. Options available to associations include classroom instruction, online interactive instruction (e.g. NAR’s online courses available at no cost on nar.realtor), etc. Creative Association Executives, REALTOR® leaders, and educators will undoubtedly devise other ways to provide their members with meaningful learning experiences.

2-3 Are training materials available from NAR?

Yes, training materials including facilitator guides, student workbooks, PowerPoint presentations, and other tools that can be used easily and effectively by local and state associations are available at no cost on nar.realtor. In addition, NAR has developed three online courses—one meeting the New Member Orientation requirement, and the other meeting the REALTORS® Ethics Training requirement, and the third meeting the existing REALTOR® requirement that offers CE credit. These courses are available to all REALTORS® at no cost on nar.realtor:

2-4 How do local associations select instructors? Are there criteria instructors must satisfy?

Instructor selection is left to the discretion of local associations who are in the best position to evaluate local instructors.

2-5 Are there instructor eligibility requirements?

No, selection of instructors is left to the discretion of each association.

2-6 Do instructors need to be certified?

No, there are no instructor certification requirements.

2-7 Who will train instructors and how will this be done? NAR training? State association training? Proprietary trainers?

It was not anticipated that a new cadre of trainers would need to be created since most local and state associations have, for many years, very successfully relied on their own REALTOR® members, AEs, staff specialists, and others to conduct meaningful ethics training. Ethics education isn’t something new to the REALTOR® organization. Rather these requirements simply codify the training that many local and state associations have delivered to their members for years.

2-8 May local associations designate their own instructors or does NAR or the state association designate a pool of instructors?

Each local and state association has autonomy in choosing the instructors they use. For a list of available instructors, go to the Professional Standards Training & Mediation (PSTM) Resource Database. (revised 6/05)

2-9 If a REALTOR®’s firm prefers to develop a course for its own agents, must it be approved by NAR?

NAR does not review or approve courses developed by private providers, real estate firms, or associations of REALTORS®. Since it is REALTORS®’ local associations that will ultimately determine whether its members have satisfied their training requirements, developers of such courses will want to seriously consider confirming with the local association of REALTORS® that any proposed course or training program satisfies the mandatory learning objectives and minimum criteria.

2-10 If a REALTOR®’s firm prefers to develop a course for its own agents, may the local association determine whether the course meets the learning objectives and minimum criteria?

Yes. As noted in the answer to Question 2-9, REALTORS®’ local associations are the ultimate determiner as to whether their members have satisfied their training requirements. Any person or entity that develops a course intended to meet those requirements will want to take reasonable steps to confirm that their course or training program satisfies the mandatory learning objectives and minimum criteria.

2-11 If a REALTOR®’s firm develops a course for its own agents, must those members who successfully complete it notify their association that they have met the requirement? What about REALTORS® who take training offered by proprietary providers, franchise organizations offering training at their meetings/conventions, etc?

If REALTORS® choose to meet the requirement through training offered by an entity other than their local association, it is their obligation to demonstrate to the association that they have completed training meeting NAR’s mandatory learning objectives and minimum criteria.

2-12 If a REALTOR® takes training at another association, can her primary association require notification that she has successfully met the requirement?

Local associations may establish such a requirement as a matter of local determination. Since REALTORS® are personally responsible for satisfying their ethics training obligations, they are strongly encouraged to take reasonable steps to demonstrate to their local association of REALTORS® that they have met those obligations, particularly in instances where REALTORS® attend a course or training program other than one provided by their local association.

2-13 Who determines whether a particular course meets the NAR learning objectives and minimum criteria?

These are determinations local associations are authorized to make following the parameters established in the policy statements.

2-14 Can REALTORS® meet their training obligations by taking training conducted by proprietary providers?

Yes, provided the training satisfies the mandatory learning objectives and minimum criteria.

2-15 Can state associations offer training?

Yes, many state associations offer training opportunities meeting the learning objectives and minimum criteria.

2-16 Can state associations review/approve courses delivered by proprietary providers as a service to their member associations?

Yes.

2-17 Must associations recognize/give credit for training conducted by or approved by other associations?

It is anticipated that associations will give deference to other associations’ determinations that particular courses meet the NAR learning objectives and minimum criteria. If a question arises, though, the association whose requirements a member is seeking to satisfy has the ultimate authority to determine if a course meets the requirements.

2-18 What training opportunities are available to REALTORS®?

Training opportunities are available from a variety of sources including, but not limited to courses/programs available from local associations, training conducted by state associations, proprietary programs, NAR’s online courses, and others.

2-19 Are NAR’s online courses updated to reflect changes to the Code of Ethics?

Yes, annually.

2-20 Does the NAR-mandated ethics training satisfy state-mandated continuing education requirements?

Beginning October 2015, there is a continuing education (CE) option for members who want to satisfy both their required code of ethics training, and also receive CE credit towards their real estate license. The cost is $29.95. For additional information including list of states for approved CE credit, click here.

2-21 Does state-mandated continuing education meet the NAR requirements?

This is a determination associations have authority to make. The learning objectives and minimum criteria established in the Policy Statements are the tools associations will want to use in making such determinations.

2-22 Is there a master list of courses and instructors available to conduct training?

While there is no complete list of every course and every instructor available, useful information is available on NAR’s Professional Standards Training and Mediation Resource Database.

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Tracking/Recordkeeping

3-1 Who notifies a member’s “new” association if a transferring member has already met the requirement for the current two-year cycle?

At the 2005 NAR Midyear Meeting, the Association Executive Committee amended NRDS policy to require all POEs (Points of Entry) to record compliance with the REALTORS® ethics training requirement. This will enable associations to check individuals' NRDS education records to determine if they have already met their ethics training obligation. Associations also have the right to require applicants for membership to disclose whether they currently hold (or formerly held) membership in another association of REALTORS®, and as a matter of local determination, contact an applicant’s former association to verify that the applicant has met the requirement. In any case where a question exists, it is the responsibility of the REALTOR® to demonstrate compliance with the requirement. (revised 6/05)

3-2 (Question deleted 6/05)

3-3 (Question deleted 6/05)

3-4 Are associations (as NRDS Points of Entry or POEs) required to use NRDS to track REALTORS®’ compliance?

Yes. During the 2005 NAR Midyear Meeting, the Association Executives Committee adopted NRDS policy that requires all POEs (Points of Entry) to use NRDS to track compliance. (revised 6/05)

3-5 Must associations (as POEs) post compliance information on NRDS for their REALTOR® members who complete training elsewhere (e.g. another association, a private provider, in-house training offered by the REALTOR®’s firm, etc.)?

Yes. The following recommendation was also approved by the Association Executives Committee (AEC) at the May 2005 NAR Midyear Meeting.

  • That a system solution or new software be developed to enable associations to seamlessly upload third party (proprietary provider’s) member education records to NRDS without the need for associations to re-enter such data.

(Note: After further discussions with NAR’s NRDS and ITS staff, it was determined that this capability already exists. Information on how to facilitate this process is available from NRDS staff.)

(revised 6/05)

3-6 Can Associations develop their own method to track REALTORS®' compliance?

In addition to using NRDS, the methods associations choose to use to ensure their members meet their membership obligations are determined locally. (revised 6/05)

3-7 What information about REALTORS®’ compliance with the training requirements can be recorded on NRDS?

Member education information that can be recorded on NRDS Education Records includes the type of training completed (New Member or existing REALTORS®) and a course number that corresponds to the year and cycle in which the training was completed. For more information, refer to the Code of Ethics Training Toolkit for AEs.

3-8 Are NRDS Education Records automatically updated when REALTORS® complete one of NAR’s online ethics training courses?

Yes.

3-9 Does nar.realtor include a viewable list of the REALTORS® who have successfully completed NAR’s online New Member Code of Ethics Orientation course or Existing REALTORS® Ethics Training course?

Yes, there is a searchable list of REALTORS® who have successfully completed NAR's training online. All member information on the list is supplied by REALTORS® as they register for either NAR online course. Information available includes: REALTORS®’ names, their NRDS ID numbers, which course (existing member or new member), the training cycle, the track (residential or commercial), and the local association they hold membership in. (revised 6/13)

3-10 Does nar.realtor include lists of the REALTORS® who have successfully completed other ethics training programs or courses?

No, the searchable list on nar.realtor lists only those REALTORS® who have successfully completed one of NAR’s online courses. Successful completion of either of those online courses is also automatically recorded on REALTORS®’ NRDS Education Records.

3-11 Does NRDS include reports detailing compliance with an existing member's Code of Ethics training?

Yes. As of 2012, all REALTOR® associations can use NRDS to view and print reports showing which existing members have or have not completed their Code of Ethics training. (Added 6/13)

3-12 May an association levy an administrative fee to update a member's NRDS record when that member does not take NAR's Code of Ethics Training course?

Yes, but the fee levied should reasonably relate to cost of inputting the information. (Added 6/13)

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Enforcement

4-1 What if an association fails or refuses to enforce the requirements with respect to their members?

Refusal to enforce mandatory policies established by the NAR Board of Directors can result in loss of NAR-provided professional liability insurance coverage and loss of charter status as a member board.

4-2 What happens if a REALTOR® doesn’t meet the training requirement on time?

Failure to meet the requirement is a violation of a membership requirement and results in suspension of membership until the requirement is met or until membership is automatically terminated. Model bylaw provisions establishing the requirement and consequences for non-compliance are available in NAR’s Model Bylaws for local and state associations. (revised 6/05)

4-3 What if a REALTOR® who is a sole proprietor, partner in a partnership, or corporate officer is suspended for non-compliance?

The consequences of suspension of a REALTOR® who is a sole proprietor, partner, or corporate officer are established in associations’ bylaws (generally in Article VI) and vary from association to association based on what their bylaws provide. As a general rule, suspension for failing to meet the training requirement will be treated the same as suspension for violating any other membership duty. Some associations' bylaws require that the membership of all other principals, partners, and corporate officers suspends if any one of them is suspended—unless the suspended member severs her relationship with the firm. Other associations permit the other principals, partners, and corporate officers to avoid suspension if the suspended member removes herself from any form or degree of management control of the firm. These are choices each local association makes in establishing its bylaws. (revised 6/04)

4-4 What if the REALTOR® who is suspended is not a principal, partner, or corporate officer?

Suspension of such an individual has no effect on the membership status of other REALTOR® members of the firm. (revised 6/04)

4-5 What are the consequences of membership suspension?

The Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual as amended by the NAR Board of Directors at the 2004 Midyear meeting defines suspension, in relevant part, as “…suspension of all Board/Association-provided membership rights, privileges, and services (including those provided by the State and National Association) not available to nonmembers for a period of not less than thirty (30) days and not longer than one year, on terms and conditions expressly stated for an established period of time, including use of the terms REALTOR® and REALTOR-ASSOCIATE®, with automatic reinstatement of all withdrawn membership rights, privileges, and services at the end of the period of suspension. The 30-day minimum and one-year maximum do not apply where suspension is imposed for a remediable violation of a membership duty (e.g. failure to pay dues or failure to complete educational requirements. ..." The provisions go on to discuss the fact that membership—including the duties to abide by the Code of Ethics and to pay association dues—continues during the term of suspension.

What this means for a REALTOR® who is suspended for not meeting the REALTORS® ethics training requirement is that all the rights, privileges, and services she is entitled to receive because she is a REALTOR® are suspended until she satisfies the training requirement. If she meets the requirement the next day, then her rights, privileges, and services are restored the next day. While suspended, though, her obligation to abide by the Code of Ethics continues, as does the obligation to pay dues.

At the May 2005 Midyear Meetings of the National Association of REALTORS®, the NAR Board of Directors amended policy to provide that members suspended for failing to meet the REALTOR® ethics training requirement would subsequently be automatically terminated from membership if they did not complete their training. See question 4-5.1 below for more information. (revised 6/05)

4-5.1 What are the consequences of membership suspension on MLS?

Suspension of REALTOR® membership will, in most instances, have no effect on MLS participatory or user/subscriber privileges. Licensees affiliated with MLS Participants have subscriber/user rights irrespective of whether they hold REALTOR® membership personally—or whether their REALTOR® membership is in good standing or is suspended. The only exception to this general rule is where it is the REALTOR® (principal)/MLS Participant who is suspended for not meeting the ethics training requirement. Under such circumstances, continued MLS access is not available to licensees affiliated with a suspended Participant unless participatory privileges are transferred to another principal in the firm. MLS participatory privileges cannot be suspended for REALTOR® (principals) in states where MLSs are required by law to provide MLS participatory rights to nonmembers or where an association has voluntarily opened its MLS to nonmember participation. (added 6/05)

4-5.2 How long can a member be suspended for not completing their REALTORS® ethics training?

Failure to meet the requirement for any two-year cycle will result in suspension of membership for the first two months (January and February) of the year following the end of any two (2) year cycle or until the requirement is met, whichever occurs sooner. On March 1 of that year, the membership of a member who is still suspended as of that date will be automatically terminated.

4-6 Can we accept certification from individual REALTORS® that they have complied without requiring independent verification?

Associations are free to determine how best to verify and track member compliance. Nothing in the policy precludes an association, as a matter of local determination, from accepting the word of their REALTOR® members that they have met their training obligation.

4-7 Is there any correlation between associations’ annual dues billing cycles and satisfaction of the New Member or the REALTORS® Ethics Training Requirements?

No.

4-8 How will associations deal with individuals who make application very late in the cycle (e.g. December 2016)?

Applications for membership, irrespective of when they are received, should be processed consistent with each association’s bylaws. If, under an association’s established procedures, an applicant is required to complete New Member ethics training on or before December 31, 2016, that individual will also be required to meet the REALTOR® Code of Ethics training cycle during the next two-year cycle (January 1, 2017 – December 31, 2018). If, on the other hand, under an association’s established procedures an applicant can complete New Member ethics training after December 31, 2016, and does, then that individual would not be required to meet the REALTOR® Code of Ethics Training Requirement until the next two-year cycle (January 1, 2019 – December 31, 2020). (revised 11/16)

4-9 Is it recommended that a declaratory judgment be sought prior to suspending a REALTOR® for failing to meet the training requirement?

No. If the obligation is clearly established in an association’s bylaws, the only question is whether the member met the requirement. In many ways, this duty is analogous to the obligation to pay dues as required by an association’s bylaws.

4-10 Do associations need to send certified letters indicating suspension is going to be imposed?

The policy does not require any particular form of notification. As a general rule, associations will want to follow the same procedures they ordinarily follow when suspending members for violations of other membership duties (e.g. failure to pay dues, fees, fines or assessments, violations of the Code of Ethics, etc.). Associations will want to make reasonable efforts to inform - and remind - members of their training obligation; the consequences of not meeting the training deadline; and the different training opportunities available to members. (added 6/05)

4-11 Can an association charge a "reactivation fee" when members are reinstated?

NAR policy provides that membership is automatically reinstated at the end of suspension (either at the end of a specified term, such as 30, 60, or 90 days, or when a "remediable" offense resulting in suspension for an unspecified time period is "remedied". NAR policy does not expressly prohibit establishment of "reinstatement" or reactivation" fees, but if such fees are levied, authority should be clearly established in the association's bylaws and any fee should be reasonable and relate to the actual costs incurred in bringing the suspended member and her records back into good standing. (added 6/04)

4-12 Can our annual dues billing include a reminder about members' REALTORS® ethics training obligation?

Associations will want to take advantage of as many communications channels as possible to make members aware of their ethics training requirement; to reinforce the importance of meeting that requirement; and to publicize available training opportunities, including training offered by the association and NAR's free online training.

Following is sample language one state association has suggested to its local associations:

  • For dues bills: "All REALTOR® Members are required to complete a REALTOR® Code of Ethics course during the two year period that ends December 31, 20__. Failure to complete the course by that date will result in suspension until course completion or automatic termination of membership on March 1, 20__, regardless of the status of dues payment. Suspension of services includes all board, state association, and NAR dues-based services."
  • For notices prior to suspension: "Our records indicate that you have not yet completed the REALTORS® Code of Ethics Training Requirement, which must be taken during the two-year period ending December 31, 20__. This serves as 90-day notice that your membership will be suspended on January 1, 20__, and terminated on March 1, 20__, unless the course is completed. If you have record of course completion, please provide that information to us so we may update your record. Suspension of services includes all dues-based services provided by the Board, state association, and NAR."

(added 7/04, revised 6/13)

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Association Responsibilities

5-1 If REALTORS® have a two-year window of time to meet their ethics training requirement, what can a local association do to provide incentives to members to meet the requirement in advance of the deadline?

Incentives to encourage members to take advantage of the excellent training opportunities their local associations offer them are best left to the creativity and good judgment of local and state Association Executives and REALTOR® leaders. The motivational/incentive techniques already employed by state and local associations to attract members to participate in other mandatory and optional training programs will likely work well in encouraging REALTORS® to meet their ethics training obligations on a timely basis. (revised 6/13)

5-2 What if we are unsuccessful in amending our bylaws to require members to meet the New Member and REALTORS® Ethics Training Requirement?

If this were to happen, the association would find itself out of compliance with a mandatory policy established by the NAR Board of Directors. The immediate consequence would be loss of the association’s professional liability insurance coverage. The association’s continued status as a member board of the National Association would be at risk as well. The good news is that NAR is unaware of any association whose efforts to amend their bylaws to incorporate these requirements were unsuccessful.

5-3 How should the New Member and the REALTORS® Ethics Training Requirement be addressed in local association bylaws?

NAR’s Model Bylaws include provisions associations can use to add these requirements to their existing bylaws.

Access NAR's Model Bylaws:

5-4 What happens if an association doesn’t ensure that its members comply with the requirements?

An association that does not enforce the New Member and REALTORS® Ethics Training Requirement would be in violation of NAR's Core Standards criteria, as well as Article IV, Section 1 of the NAR Bylaws. The immediate result would be loss of NAR-provided professional liability insurance coverage, and the association’s charter as a member board of the National Association would be at risk.

5-5 Where are the relevant association obligations established?

NAR’s Organizational Alignment Core Standards, Section 1 – Code of Ethics and Article IV of the NAR Bylaws and the New Member Code of Ethics and the REALTORS® Code of Ethics Training policies established by the NAR Board of Directors.

5-6 What are the procedures for revoking an association’s charter?

Read the complete procedure for revoking an association’s charter for non-compliance with mandatory policies established by the NAR Board of Directors.

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(revised 10/16)

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