Among other things, becoming a Realtor® means that you must abide by a Code of Ethics and that you agree to arbitrate fee disputes that might otherwise lead to lawsuits.
NAR requires that local associations facilitate arbitration requests and Code of Ethics enforcement through a Professional Standards program. Each local can run its own Professional Standards program or the NAR rules allow locals to work with another local or with the state Realtor® association to provide these services.
At least a dozen states operate Professional Standards programs on behalf of their local associations. A PAR task force reviewed many of these statewide programs during 2010 and 2011 and in 2011 the PAR Board of Directors voted to create a Statewide Professional Standards Cooperative to offer these services to local associations in Pennsylvania.
The statewide cooperative officially launched on January 1, 2012, with 18 participating locals. Basically, this means that as of the beginning of the year, all administrative responsibilities related to ethics and arbitration cases in those associations will be handled by PAR staff rather than local staff. Locals that have not joined the cooperative will still operate their local programs as they have in the past.
The primary difference ‘on the street’ will be that Realtors® or members of the public will contact PAR instead of local staff to pursue a possible ethics complaint or a request for arbitration against a Realtor® who belongs to one of the participating locals. The grievance, hearing and appeal process will then be handled by the appropriate state committee(s), which will be have members from every participating local, as well as from those locals who continue to run their own programs.
The statewide program will have other benefits as well. For example, the PAR program will emphasize mediation and ombudsman services to try to solve issues before they progress to a full-blown hearing. Also, the statewide cooperative is introducing a new Ethics Citation System, based on procedures adopted in only a few other associations across the country, which for the first time will authorize the issuance of “tickets” for certain breaches of the Code, rather than requiring every complaint to proceed through the full hearing process.
The statewide cooperative is a voluntary program offered to all local associations. Locals may join or leave the program on a yearly basis, though for the first year we will facilitate the process for locals who wish to join the cooperative throughout the year. If you have any questions about the statewide cooperative, or if you have a potential ethics or arbitration case, please contact me at 1-800-555-3390 or [email protected]