REALTORS® are different from non-member licensees in that they voluntarily subscribe to a strict Code of Ethics. If you believe that a REALTOR® has violated one or more Articles of the Code of Ethics, you can file an ethics complaint alleging a violation(s) through the local association of REALTORS® where the REALTOR® holds membership, or participates in a REALTOR® association-owned/operated MLS.
In addition, REALTORS® agree as a condition of membership to arbitrate contractual disputes and specific non-contractual disputes as provided for in Article 17 of the NAR Code of Ethics.
Below are several resources to help you understand what filing and processing an ethics complaint and arbitration request entails, and the general process you can expect when filing an ethics complaint or arbitration request with a local association of REALTORS®. Check with the local association of REALTORS® to ensure you have the proper forms required by that association.
The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice document is also available in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese translations on the National Association of REALTORS® website.
For a complete list of resources and information in regards to Ethics Complaints, Arbitration and Professional Standards administration, please see C.A.R.'s page for Ethics & Arbitration Complaints.
Occasionally, members find themselves in a dispute with another member or a client. The C.A.R. Ombudsman Hotline is here to help. C.A.R. Ombudsmen receive and respond to questions and complaints about members; can contact members to inform them that another REALTOR® has raised a question or issue; and can contact members to obtain information necessary to provide an informed response to the person complaining.
The Ombudsman's role is primarily one of communication and conciliation, not adjudication. Ombudsmen do not determine whether ethics violations have occurred, rather they anticipate, identify, and resolve misunderstandings and disagreements before matters ripen into more significant disputes.
Ombudsmen are not attorneys and cannot give legal advice or answer legal questions.
The C.A.R. Ombudsman Hotline is a free service that C.A.R. offers. If you wish the assistance of a C.A.R. Ombudsman, you may call (213) 739-7227 or email the Ombudsman Hotline at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ethics Complaints and Grievances
Even with the best of intentions, planning and preparation, occasional disagreements arise between agents and their clients or customers. If you believe an agent may have acted in an unethical manner, contact JTGAR. Complaints that are brought before the AOR give those parties involved an opportunity to be educated about the REALTOR® Code of Ethics (and/or the Multiple Listing Service's Rules and Regulations. In addition, REALTORS® are judged by their peers as opposed to other individuals, who may be far less familiar with the practices and customs of the real estate industry.
A grievance (a disciplinary complaint) alleges that a REALTOR® has violated an Article(s) of the Code of Ethics or an MLS participant or subscriber has violated the Multiple Listing Service Rules and Regulations.
Who can file a grievance complaint?
Any person, whether a member or not, having reason to believe that a REALTOR® or MLS participant/subscriber is in violation of any conduct subject to disciplinary action. For JTGAR to process the complaint, the respondent of a complaint must be a member of JTGAR or a member at the time of the incident. See the Ethics and Arbitration Manual for details on timeframes for filing.
How do I file a grievance?
Form D1 must be filled out completely and filed with the REALTOR's primary association along with an attached written exhibit detailing and supporting the allegations specified in the D1 form. This must be filed with JTGAR within 180 calendar days after the facts constituting alleged misconduct could have been known in the exercise of reasonable diligence. For reference in completing these forms, please consult the California Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual, the REALTOR Code of Ethics and/or the MLS Rules and Regulations. Please see the Documents section of this website for these forms and documents.
Below are some resources to get you started:
(NAR)Code of Ethics
View the current NAR Code of Ethics here.
(NAR)Before You File an Ethics Complaint
This brochure explains alternatives to consider before filing an ethics complaint, as well as what to expect after filing a complaint.
Consumer and REALTOR® Ombudsman Hotline
Occasionally, consumers may find themselves in a dispute with a REALTOR®. The C.A.R. Ombudsmen are volunteers that serve as a neutral and independent voice to answer consumer or REALTOR® questions, improve communication between parties, and suggest possible ways to resolve issues.
(C.A.R.)C.A.R. Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual (Summary)
Procedures for processing complaints alleging violations of an Association's bylaws.
(C.A.R.)Key Ethics Forms
View or download forms for initiating an ethics complaint.
While NAR does not recommend specific discipline for certain offenses, it does outline key points to be considered with respect to discipline.
Arbitration and Mediation
An arbitration request involves a dispute over entitlement to a monetary transaction with regard to a real estate transaction and commissions. Disputes subject to arbitration include disputes with other members arising out of the real estate business and their relationship as REALTORS®, and disputes between REALTORS and their clients.
With respect to MLS participants and subscribers, they agree to arbitrate disputes that not only arise out of the real estate business but they must be in conjunction with a listing filed in or with the MLS. MLS participants/subscribers are not obligated to arbitrate with the general public or their clients. Disputes subject to arbitration include: contractual disputes with a member’s client arising out of an agency relationship between the member and client, provided the client agrees to submit the dispute to binding arbitration using the Association’s facilities and be bound by the arbitration decision.
Duty to Arbitrate (NAR)
From Part Ten, Section 43 of The Code of Ethics & Arbitration Manual.
Arbitratable Issues (NAR)
From Appendix I to Part Ten of The Code of Ethics & Arbitration Manual.
Key Arbitration Forms (C.A.R.)
View or download forms for filing an arbitration request.
Factors Considered in Arbitration (C.A.R.)
Procuring Cause Guidelines.
No Findings of Fact in Arbitration Awards (NAR)
From Appendix IV to Part Ten of The Code of Ethics & Arbitration Manual.
Mediation as a Service of Member Boards (NAR)
From Appendix VI to Part Ten of The Code of Ethics & Arbitration Manual.
Before filing a complaint or requesting arbitration, please contact JTGAR for proper next steps, possible administration fees and to verify an individual’s membership status with the AOR. As per the Ethics and Arbitration Manual, under certain circumstances (for example, the legal complexity of the matter or magnitude of the amount in controversy), the AOR has the right to decline arbitration.
Information on this page does not constitute legal advice and is provided as a reference only. If you have any questions about the complaint or arbitration process, it is strongly recommended that you contact JTGAR's Professional Standards Department.