Code Words-November/December 2011

Think before you speak

Article 15 protects against false or unfounded ethics complaints

By Debra McIver
Professional Standards Administrator

Article 12 of the code states that “Realtors® shall be careful at all times to present a true picture in their advertising and representations to the public.” Article 15 addresses the same issue, but from a different angle. Article 12 speaks of presenting an accurate picture of yourself, while Article 15 focuses on making sure you share a true image of your competitors, their businesses and their business practices.

In simpler terms, the code prohibits you from making false statements about any competitors and their businesses. Article 15 requires Realtors® to make good-faith efforts to ensure that statements and representations they make of others are truthful and accurate.

The intent of Article 15 is to not limit or inhibit the free flow of information that the public needs when using Realtor® services. Remember, truthfulness is the ultimate measuring stick of Article 15. Little is gained — and often much is lost — through negative, non-constructive criticism that can impair cooperative efforts among Realtors®.

Recently, there have been reports of Realtors® making misleading and false statements about their competitors on Facebook. Whether the statement is made in person or in writing on the Internet, it is strictly prohibited by Article 15.

Standards of Practice

Most of the articles of the code offer additional Standards of Practice (SOP) that provide Realtors® with various interpretations of the actual article. The first SOP of Article 15 deals specifically with filing ethics complaints. It reminds Realtors® that it is unethical to knowingly or recklessly file false or unfounded ethics complaints.

To understand this SOP better, we can break it down into two parts, “knowingly filing a false complaint,” and “recklessly filing a complaint.” With the first part, you would be found in violation of Article 15 simply if you were to file a complaint knowing that it is false.

As an example of recklessly filing an ethics complaint, Realtor® A files an ethics complaint against Realtor® B. Realtor® B then retaliates by filing an ethics complaint against Realtor® A. This is considered to be reckless and may result in sanctions and fines.

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