Nature of Complaints
REALTORS® and REALTOR-ASSOCIATE®s recognize their social responsibility to conform their business conduct to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ Code of Ethics. All Member Boards have a Professional Standards Committee which is charged with enforcement of the Code of Ethics in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Board’s bylaws. Equal professional service without regard to race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, and national origin is a basic commitment embodied in Article 10 of the Code of Ethics. Any allegation that a member has violated this principle and Article 10 must be taken seriously by the Board. (Revised 11/13)
The complaints may not always be based specifically upon alleged denial of equal professional service and consequent violation of Article 10 of the Code of Ethics. Some complaints may be based upon alleged instances of “blockbusting,” racial steering, inducement of “panic peddling,” or allegation of outright discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin by REALTORS® and REALTOR-ASSOCIATE®s. With respect to such complaints, the individual Articles of the Code of Ethics are the only grounds upon which a Member Board Professional Standards Committee may take disciplinary action or assess disciplinary penalties upon Board Members. (Revised 11/13)
Handling of Complaints
The Fair Housing Partnership Agreement between the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® replaced the twenty (20) year old Voluntary Affirmative Marketing Agreement (VAMA). Under the VAMA there was specific language regarding the handling of complaints. The VAMA has expired and those specific requirements no longer are applicable. Complaints alleging violation of Article 10 or the Code for Equal Opportunity in Housing are to be handled in the same manner as other complaints under the Code of Ethics. Boards are urged to utilize their Equal Opportunity Committees to implement the new Fair Housing Partnership. Equal Opportunity Committees can be of assistance to the Board in helping the Grievance and Professional Standards Committees understand the fair housing issues facing a community and the nuances of specific discriminatory practices. (Revised 11/97)
The National Association recommends that training be conducted on the investigation and processing of complaints involving Article 10. The Board’s Equal Opportunity Committee will be given anonymous summaries of the disposition of such complaints to permit the committee to better tailor its future activities and training to the types of fair housing problems being encountered within the Board.
Resolution of Complaints
The Board’s Professional Standards Committee must act on the complaint in accordance with procedures set forth in the Board’s bylaws. In addition, no matter what the basis for the complaint, the committee can judge and evaluate it only on the basis of the Code of Ethics. While an alleged act of discrimination may violate the Code of Ethics as well as applicable fair housing laws, the Professional Standards Committee may not attempt to enforce federal, state, or local fair housing and equal opportunity laws. It is charged only with enforcement of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ Code of Ethics. If the complaint is based solely on an alleged violation of the law, the Board’s Professional Standards Committee must decline to hear it and instead refer the matter to the proper authorities.
Moreover, the committee, after receipt of a complaint, should decline to hold a hearing if the allegation that Article 10 has been breached is the subject of litigation involving alleged violation of law until after such litigation is concluded. In order to preserve the right of the complaining party to professional standards review, however, the Board should not refuse to accept the filing of a complaint in a matter subject to pending litigation. While the power of the Professional Standards Committee is not preempted by such litigation, the Board may properly elect to let issues of fact which are common to the litigation and the complaint under the Code be decided by the court in view of the court’s substantially greater powers to compel discovery of relevant facts. In addition, under some circumstances the punishment imposed in a litigated case may render any action the Board might take a “meaningless act” (such as expulsion from the Board of a member who has already lost his license). However, the Board is not bound by any decision in a litigated controversy. (Revised 11/97)
The Code for Equal Opportunity in Housing
In May 1972, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ Board of Directors approved the Code for Equal Opportunity in Housing and strongly urged all Member Boards to adopt it. The Code for Equal Opportunity in Housing recognized five (5) basic fair housing obligations governing REALTORS® and REALTOR-ASSOCIATE®s in the conduct of their business. In November 1999, Article 10 of the Code of Ethics and its Standards of Practice were amended to include all obligations under the Code for Equal Opportunity in Housing. With these amendments, the Code for Equal Opportunity in Housing was sunset by the Board of Directors of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.
The five (5) basic fair housing obligations that were recognized by the Code for Equal Opportunity in Housing prior to it being sunset were:
First: In the sale, purchase, exchange, rental, or lease of real property, REALTORS® and their sales associates had the responsibility to offer equal services to all clients and prospects without regard to race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. This encompassed:
(a) standing ready to enter broker-client relationships with or show property equally to members of all racial, religious, or ethnic groups
(b) receiving all formal written offers and communicating them to the owner
(c) exerting their best efforts to conclude all transactions
(d) maintaining equal opportunity employment practices
Second: Members, individually and collectively, in performing their agency functions, had no right or responsibility to volunteer information regarding the racial, religious, or ethnic composition of any neighborhood or any part thereof.
Third: Members would not engage in any activity which had the purpose of inducing panic selling.
Fourth: Members would not print, display, or circulate any statement or advertisement with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.
Fifth: Members who violated the spirit or any provision of the Code for Equal Opportunity in Housing would be subject to disciplinary action.
When adoption of the Code for Equal Opportunity was integrated with Article 10 of the Code of Ethics, to which all REALTORS® and REALTOR-ASSOCIATE®s must subscribe as members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, the result is a positive public position on civil rights and on fair and equal housing opportunities.
In January 2020, the leadership of the National Association of REALTORS® passed a Fair Housing Action Plan to reaffirm and strengthen the association’s fair housing commitment. The Fair Housing Action Plan, abbreviated “ACT,” specifically committed the National Association of REALTORS® to:
- work closely with state association executives to ensure that state licensing laws include effective fair-housing training requirements and hold real estate agents accountable to their fair housing obligations
- launch a public-service announcement campaign that reaffirm NAR’s commitment to fair housing, and how consumers can report problems
- integrate fair housing into all REALTOR® conferences and engagements
- explore the creation of a voluntary self-testing program, in partnership with a fair housing organization, as a resource
- for brokers and others who want confidential reports on agent practices so they can address problems
- create more robust fair housing education, including unconscious-bias training, and education on how the actions of REALTORS® shape communities
- conduct a national study to determine what factors motivate discrimination in sales market
- profile leaders who exemplify the best fair housing practices and workplace diversity
- develop materials to help REALTOERS® provide consumers with information on schools that avoids fair housing pitfalls (Revised 10/20)