We take our commitment to professional and ethical business very seriously. Because we promise to uphold the Code of Ethics, we are prepared to review ethics complaints and requests for arbitration in order to serve our members, their clients, and the real estate industry more effectively.
After a complaint or request has been filed, the Grievance Committee reviews it and determines if it should proceed to a hearing. If needed, a Professional Standards Hearing will occur, consisting of members from the Professional Standards Committee. These committees are responsible for ensuring due process in hearings to enforce the Code of Ethics, and in arbitration of disputes from the business of real estate.
NEAR also offers ombudsman and mediation services, which can be an excellent way to resolve disputes collaboratively in a faster and more flexible way.
The Code of Ethics ensures that REALTORS® stick to a higher level of professionalism by outlining industry standards and expectations. Complaints about violations of the Code of Ethics must cite the Article(s) of the Code perceived to be violated using Ethics Complaint Form E-1. Complaints should include a supporting document in the form of a narrative or chronological summary of the events that occurred. This process helps our members, clients, and the industry by protecting REALTORS® who adhere to principled practices and dealing formally with those who do not.
Once a complaint has been filed, it is presented to the Grievance Committee to review and determine if the complaint should be referred to hearing or dismissed. If a hearing is needed, the Professional Standards Committee will schedule it at the Northeast Association of REALTORS®' Westford, MA office at a time convenient for all parties.
If the panel determines there has been a violation, they will take disciplinary action. Disciplinary sanctions can include the completion of an education class on a given topic, letters of warning and reprimand, suspension, or termination of membership. If referred to hearing, this process usually takes about two months because to allow for reasonable time for responses, for action by the Grievance Committee, scheduling, etc.
The Ombudsman Program in its simplest definition is informal telephone mediation. In some cases it can address and solve minor complaints from the public. It can also solve inter-REALTOR® conflicts before they become serious problems. Like a mediator, an ombudsman helps parties find solutions.
The following types of cases can be handled through the Ombudsman Process:
Non or small monetary amount
May be solved by providing simple education
May be solved by providing basic knowledge
The following types of cases cannot be handled through the Ombudsman Process:
Apparent violations of law
Fair housing or discrimination issues
Those already referred to legal counsel, a subject of a Massachusetts Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers and Salesperson investigation, a REALTOR® vs. REALTOR® arbitration which shall be handled by the association’s mediator.
Large monetary amounts
Cases involving more than two parties
Blatantly unreasonable or uncooperative parties
To access our Ombudsman services, contact NEAR Professional Standards Coordinator Sharon Sarvela (Sharon@NortheastRealtors.com or 978-577-6138).
Mediation is a form of facilitated negotiation in which an impartial third party attempts to help disputing parties reach a mutually-satisfactory solution to their problems. NEAR is happy to offer our members the opportunity to use mediation to resolve conflicts, and we ensure that the process is fair, flexible and confidential.
There are numerous benefits to choosing mediation. Since the mediation process is collaborative, not adversarial, it can help resolve issues while preserving positive relationships between all parties. Additionally, mediation often takes far less time and money than formal litigation.
The goal of a successful mediation is to have both parties come to a mutual agreement in writing upon the mediation's conclusion. Once the agreement is signed, parties are legally bound to abide by its terms.
In order to file an arbitration, a request must be filed using Request and Agreement to Arbitrate Form A-1(Member Form | Non-member Form). Your Request and Agreement to Arbitrate should include a supporting document in the form of a narrative or chronological summary of the events that occurred. Once the Request and Agreement to Arbitrate and supporting document are complete, submit it to NEAR Professional Standards Administrator Sharon Sarvela (Sharon@NortheastRealtors.com), along with a check for $500 payable to the North Association of REALTORS® for the arbitration deposit.
A copy of your Request and Agreement to Arbitrate will then be sent to the respondent, who has 14 days to submit a response and deposit. Once the response is received by the Northeast Association of REALTORS®, the case is sent to the Grievance Committee to review the case, and based on a certain set of guidelines they must follow, will determine if the case should be referred to hearing or dismissed. If the case is referred to hearing, the Northeast Association of REALTORS® Professional Standards Committee will appoint a panel to hear the case and determine how the money dispute should be resolved. Arbitration is binding.
The hearing is typically held at the NEAR office and is set for a time convenient for all parties. If referred to hearing, this process usually takes about two months because we must allow reasonable time for responses, for action by the Grievance Committee, scheduling, etc.