Case Interpretations Related to Article 14

The Case Interpretations offer examples of the practical application of the Code in professional standards enforcement and help REALTORS® understand the ethical obligations created by the Code of Ethics. View the Preface to Case Interpretations to learn more about their history/background.

Case #14-1: Establishing Procedure to be Followed in Handling Complaints

(Revised Case #15-1 May, 1988. Transferred to Article 14 November, 1994. Revised November, 1996. Revised November, 2001. Deleted November, 2017.)

Case #14-2: Refusal to Submit Pertinent Facts

(Revised Case #15-2 May, 1988. Transferred to Article 14 November, 1994. Revised May, 2018.)

REALTOR® A was charged with a violation of the Code of Ethics. At the hearing, the complainant formally presented the charge and a considerable body of evidence to support it. Members of the panel questioned REALTOR® A on specific points. To each question he responded that he was not guilty of the charge, but that specific answers to the questions put to him could conceivably do him an injustice, and that he felt that he should not be required to answer questions in a situation that was unfair to him.

Further attempts to question REALTOR® A met with similar responses. The Chairperson reminded REALTOR® A that he was not before a court of law but a Committee of the Board in which his membership was based wholly upon his willingness to abide by it rules, which did not provide for a “Fifth Amendment” refuge from proper questions by members of the Hearing Panel. The Chairperson specifically directed REALTOR® A to respond to the hearing panel’s questions, and REALTOR® A refused.

The Chairperson of the Hearing Panel advised REALTOR® A that, in light of his refusal to answer questions directed to him, the complaint was being amended to include a charge of a violation of Article 14. The Chairperson asked REALTOR® A if he wished to proceed with the hearing, or if he preferred to have the hearing postponed to a later date to provide him with an opportunity to prepare a defense against the additional charge. The Chairperson also asked if REALTOR® A agreed to go forward with the existing Hearing Panel or if he would ask for a new Hearing Panel. REALTOR® A requested a continuance to prepare his defense against the amended complaint that now included an alleged violation of Article 14, and agreed to go forward with the current Hearing Panel. The hearing was adjourned to a date certain to enable REALTOR® A to prepare his defense to the additional charge. The Chairperson advised REALTOR® A that he was required to attend the new hearing date and respond to questions put to him by the Hearing Panel.

One day prior to the new hearing date, REALTOR® A called the association and advised that he would not be attending the hearing because he objected to the nature of the Hearing Panel’s questions and the fact that he was required to respond. The following day, the Chairperson noted REALTOR® A’s absence, and the complain- ant was permitted to present their case. The hearing concluded and the Hearing Panel entered executive session.

In executive session, the Hearing Panel discussed REALTOR® A’s behavior with respect to the alleged violation of Article 14. The Panel members discussed that respondents in ethics cases are not required to attend hearings, defend themselves, and answer questions absent a specific and direct request to do so in order to remain compliant with Article 14. In this instance, however, REALTOR® A had received a specific and direct request from the Panel to attend the new hearing date and answer questions, and his failure to do so constituted a violation of Article 14.

Case #14-3: Submission of Pertinent Facts

(Revised Case #15-3 May, 1988. Transferred to Article 14 November, 1994. Revised May, 2017.)

Buyer A filed a complaint against REALTOR® B, the listing broker, involving a property purchased earlier by Buyer A.

REALTOR® B was notified of the complaint, directed to be present at a hearing, and requested to present to a Hearing Panel of the Association’s Professional Standards Committee all pertinent facts relating to the transaction. REALTOR® B’s response was a statement that he would refuse to submit any information in the matter to a Hearing Panel and would not attend the scheduled hearing, on the grounds that the complaint itself was not justified.

Explaining his position, REALTOR® B stated that his participation in the transaction was exclusively as the agent of the seller; that he had not been representing the buyer; and hence, could not be subject to a complaint by the buyer for simply transmitting information on behalf of the seller.

All of his statements concerning the property, REALTOR® B said, were based on information supplied to him by his client, the seller. Any error in this information, he contended, might well provide the basis for a lawsuit between the buyer and seller. As the agent of the seller, he felt that he was not answerable to the buyer for having done no more than transmit information provided to him by the seller.

REALTOR® B was advised by the Association that his reasoning was incorrect; that he was obligated by Article 14 to submit pertinent facts to a Hearing Panel of the Association’s Professional Standards Committee and to participate in the hearing. REALTOR® B agreed to comply, and a hearing on the complaint was held.

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