Professionalism & Code of Ethics

Code of Ethics

One of the things separating REALTORS® from other real estate agents is their adherence to the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. This code ensures consumers that, when they are dealing with a REALTOR®, they will be treated fairly and professionally. 

However, every now and then a disagreement comes up between a home buyer/seller and his or her REALTOR®. Most of these differences can be resolved with good communication and understanding between the two parties. But when resolution cannot be found the easy way, the Code of Ethics and the professional standards process provides an outlet for consumers who feel they were treated unfairly by their REALTOR®.

Mandatory Ethics Training

CAAR Bylaws: 

Section 4. New Member Code of Ethics
Applicants for REALTOR® membership and provisional REALTOR® members (where applicable) shall complete an orientation program on the Code of Ethics of not less than two hours and thirty minutes of instructional time. This requirement does not apply to applicants for REALTOR® membership or provisional members who have completed comparable orientation in another association, provided that REALTOR® membership has been continuous, or that any break in membership is for one year or less. Failure to satisfy this requirement within the time-frame established by the Board of Directors will result in denial of the membership application or termination of provisional membership.

Note: Orientation programs must meet the learning objectives and minimum criteria established from time to time by the National Association of REALTORS® and the Capital Area Association of REALTORS®. (Adopted 1/01). 

Section 5. Continuing Member Code of Ethics Training

Effective January 1, 2001, through December 31, 2004, and for successive four year periods thereafter, each REALTOR® member of the association shall be required to complete ethics training of not less than two hours and thirty minutes of instructional time. This requirement will be satisfied upon presentation of documentation that the member has completed a course of instruction conducted by this or another association, the State Association of REALTORS®, the National Association of REALTORS®, or any other recognized educational institution or provider which meets the learning objectives and minimum criteria established by the National Association of REALTORS® and Capital Area Association of REALTORS® from time to time. REALTOR® members who have completed training as a requirement of membership in another association and REALTOR® members who have completed the New Member Code of Ethics Orientation during any four year cycle shall not be required to complete additional ethics training until a new four year cycle commences.

Failure to satisfy this requirement shall be considered a violation of a membership duty for which REALTOR® membership shall be suspended until such time as the training is completed. (Adopted 1/01)

Pathways to Professionalism

NAR created this brief, 10-minute video entitled "A Pathway to Professional Conduct: Respect Starts Here" to ensure that all members are versed on how to conduct themselves professionally in all parts of the business. It contains tips for showing respect for property, the public and your peers, reinforcing to novice and experienced members what it means to conduct business with the utmost respect.

Before You File a Complaint

Associations of REALTORS® are responsible for enforcing the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics imposes duties above and in addition to those imposed by law or regulation, which apply only to real estate agents who choose to becomes REALTORS®.

Many difficulties between real estate agents (whether REALTORS® ) result from misunderstandings, miscommunication, or lack of adequate communication. If you have a problem with a real estate professional, you should speak with them or their broker first. Open, constructive discussion often resolves questions or differences, eliminating the need for further action.

If, after discussing matters with your real estate professional or principal broker in that firm, you are still not satisfied, you may want to contact the Capital Area Association of REALTORS®.

  • Only REALTORS® are subject to the Code of Ethics of the National Association of REALTORS®.
  • If the real estate agent (or their broker) you are dealing with is not a REALTOR®, your only recourse may be the Office of Banks and Real Estate  (real estate licensing entity) at 217/785-0893, or the courts.
  • Associations of REALTORS® determine whether the Code of Ethics has been violated, not whether the law or real estate regulations have been broken. Those decisions can only be made by the Office of Banks and Real Estate or the courts.
  • Associations of REALTORS® can discipline REALTORS® for violating the Code of Ethics. Typical forms of discipline include attendance at courses and seminars designed to increase REALTOR® understanding of the ethical duties or other responsibilities of real estate professionals. REALTORS® may also be reprimanded, fined, or their membership can be suspended or terminated for serious or repeated violations. Associations of REALTORS® cannot require REALTORS® to pay money to parties filing ethics complaints, cannot award "punitive damages" for violations of the Code of Ethics, and cannot suspend or revoke a real estate professional's license.
  • The primary purpose of discipline for ethical lapses is to educate; to create a heightened awareness of, and appreciation for, the duties the Code imposes. At the same time, more severe forms of discipline, including fines and suspension and termination of membership, may be imposed for serious or repeated violations.

Before filing an ethics complaint, make reasonable efforts to communicate with your real estate professional or a principal broker in the firm. If these efforts are not fruitful, the Capital Area Association of REALTORS® can give you the procedures and forms necessary to file an ethics complaint.  You may contact the association by phone at 217/698-7000 or via email at info@CAARonline.com. Be sure to reference the name of the real estate professional you have a complaint against along with the firm name.

File a Complaint

Filing an ethics complaint


The local association of REALTORS® can provide you with information on the procedures for filing an ethics complaint. Here are some good general principles to keep in mind.
  • Ethics complaints must be filed with the local association of REALTORS® within 180 days from the time a complainant knew (or reasonably should have known) that potentially unethical conduct took place.
  • The REALTORS® Code of Ethics consists of 17 Articles. The duties imposed by many of the Articles are explained and illustrated through accompanying Standards of Practice or case interpretations.
  • Your complaint should include a narrative description of the circumstances which led you to believe the Code of Ethics may have been violated.
  • Your complaint must cite one or more of the Articles of the Code of Ethics, which may have been violated. Hearing panels decide whether the Articles expressly cited in complaints were violated - not whether Standards of Practice or case interpretations were violated.
  • The local Association of REALTORS®' Grievance Committee may provide assistance in preparing a complaint in proper form and with proper content.

Before the hearing

  • Your complaint will be reviewed by the local Association's Grievance Committee. Their job is to review complaints to determine if the allegations made, if taken as true, might support a violation of the Article(s) cited in the complaint.
  • If the Grievance Committee dismissed your complaint, it does not mean they don't believe you. Rather, it means that they do not feel your allegations would support a hearing panel's conclusion that the Article(s) cited in your complaint had been violated. You may want to review your complaint to see if you cited an Article appropriate to your allegations.
  • If the Grievance Committee forwards your complaint for hearing, that does not mean they have decided the Code of Ethics has been violated. Rather, it means they feel that if what you allege in your complaint is found by the hearing panel to have occurred, then a violation of the Code of Ethics may have occurred also.
  • If your complaint is dismissed as not requiring a hearing, you can appeal that dismissal to the board of directors of the local Association of REALTORS®.

Preparing for the hearing

  • Familiarize yourself with the hearing procedures that will be followed. In particular you will want to know about challenging potential panel members, your right to counsel, calling witnesses, and the burdens and standards of proof that apply.
  • Complainants have the ultimate responsibility ("burden") of proving that the Code of Ethics has been violated. The standard of proof that must be met is "clear, strong and convincing" defined as ".that measure or degree of proof which will produce a firm belief or conviction as to the allegations sought to be established." Consistent with American jurisprudence, respondents are considered innocent unless proven to have violated the Code of Ethics.
  • Be sure that your witnesses and counsel will be available on the day of the hearing. Continuances are a privilege - not a right.
  • Be sure you have all the documents and other evidence you need to present your case.
  • Organize your presentation in advance. Know what you are going to say and be prepared to demonstrate what happened and how you believe the Code of Ethics was violated.

At the hearing

  • Panel members are unpaid volunteers giving their time as an act of public service. Their objective is to be fair, unbiased, and impartial, to determine, based on the evidence and testimony presented to them, what actually occurred, and then to determine whether the facts as they find them support a finding that the Article(s) charged have been violated.
  • Hearing panels cannot conclude that an Article of the Code has been violated unless that Article(s) is specifically cited in the complaint.
  • Keep your presentation concise, factual, and to the point. Your task is to demonstrate what happened (or what should have happened but didn't), and how the facts support a violation of the Article(s) charged in the complaint.
  • Hearing panels base their decisions on the evidence and testimony presented during the hearing. If you have information relevant to the issue(s) under consideration, be sure to bring it up during your presentation.
  • You are involved in an adversarial process that is, to some degree, unavoidably confrontational. Many violations of the Code of Ethics result from misunderstanding or lack of awareness of ethical duties by otherwise well meaning, responsible real estate professionals. An ethics complaint has potential to be viewed as an attack on a respondent's integrity and professionalism. For the enforcement process to function properly, it is imperative for all parties, witnesses and panel members to maintain appropriate decorum.

After the hearing

  • When you receive the hearing panel's decision, review it carefully.
  • Findings of fact are the conclusions of impartial panel members based on their reasoned assessment of all of the evidence and testimony presented during the hearing. Findings of fact are not appealable.
  • If you believe the hearing process was seriously flawed to the extent you were denied a full and fair hearing, appellant procedures can be pursued. The fact that a hearing panel found no violation is not appealable.
  • Refer to the procedures used by the local association of REALTORS® for detailed information on the bases and time limits for appealing decisions or requesting a rehearing.
  • Rehearings are generally granted only when newly discovered evidence comes to light (a) which could not reasonably have been discovered and produced at the original hearing and (b) which might have had a bearing on the hearing panel's decision.
  • Appeals brought by ethics respondents must be based on (a) a perceived misapplication or misinterpretation of one or more Articles of the Code of Ethics, (b) a procedural deficiency or failure of due process, or (c) the nature or gravity of the discipline proposed by the hearing panel. Appeals brought by ethics complainants are limited to procedural deficiencies or failures of due process that may have prevented a full and fair hearing.