May 1, 2017 – Have you ever encountered a real estate agent behaving badly? Your first inclination may be to assume this individual is unethical; that he or she is operating outside the Realtor Code of Ethics (COE).
Ethics complaints are often filed against a Realtor who:
Behaves in a way that contradicts the complainant's personal moral code
Engages in nonconventional business practices
Displays unprofessional behavior, such as using profanity or disrespecting colleagues and consumers
Fails to observe the Golden Rule – "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"
Before you file a complaint, you may want to compare the Realtor's conduct to the duties and obligations required under the COE. If you cannot find an article of the COE that fits the offensive behavior, it's probably not unethical.
The following examples are fact situations that Florida Realtors Legal Hotline has addressed. Based on the fact situation as presented by the caller, it's possible an ethics hearing panel would not find a member in violation of the Code of Ethics for:
Not returning a lock box key to the lock box (this could be a lock box rule violation)
Failing to cancel a showing appointment
Failing to answer telephone calls, text messages or emails
Not paying commission on an off-market listing
Sharing a buyer's offer with a competing buyer (with the seller's consent)
The listing sales associate not asking for highest and best in a multiple offer situation
Relaying a seller's instructions that only pre-qualified buyers can view the property
Not telling prospective buyers about previous appraisals stating that the sales price is higher than appraised value
Changing the offer of commission before an offer is submitted
Sending postcards without a disclaimer to disregard the advertisement if seller's property is currently listed with another broker
Contacting another Realtor's buyer when no exclusive relationship agreement exists between that buyer and another brokerage
Talking to an active seller about taking over the listing from another Realtor, providing the seller made the first move to contact you
Prospecting for buyers at another Realtor's open house
Badmouthing a seller or buyer on social media
Not telling prospective buyers about existing offers on the property (disclosure can only be given with seller consent)
Note: Application and interpretation of the Realtor Code of Ethics rests with local associations charged with the responsibility of enforcement based on evidence and testimony presented following a due process hearing.
Anne Cockayne is Director of Policy Services for Florida Realtors
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