Code of Ethics Case Study – Article 3

Article 3 of the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual of the National Association of REALTORS covers the REALTOR obligation to cooperate with other real estate professionals to advance the client’s best interests.  The exact wording is as follows:

Article 3 – REALTORS shall cooperate with other brokers except when cooperation is not in the client’s best interest.  The obligation to cooperate does not include the obligation to share commissions, fees, or to otherwise compensate another broker.  (Amended 1/95)

Following is a case study from the National Association of REALTORS.  These studies are taken from actual hearings that have taken place throughout the Country.

Case #3-9: Realtor®’s Obligation to Disclose True Nature of Listing Agreement (Adopted as Case #9-32 April, 1992. Transferred to Article 3 November, 1994.)

Realtor® A listed the home of Seller X and filed the listing with the Board’s MLS categorizing it as an exclusive right to sell listing. Realtor® A did not disclose that there was a dual rate commission arrangement on this listing, even though the listing contract provided that, should the seller be the procuring cause of sale, the listing broker would receive a commission of $500.00, an amount intended to compensate Realtor® A for his marketing costs.

Realtor® B, a cooperating broker, showed the property several times. Eventually, Realtor® B brought a signed purchase agreement to Realtor® A. Realtor® A returned the purchase agreement the next day, informing Realtor® B that the seller had rejected the offer. Several weeks later, Realtor® B learned that the property had been sold, and that the buyer was Seller X’s nephew.

Several months later, Realtor® B met Seller X at a fund-raising event. Seller X thanked her for her efforts, and told her that, under “normal circumstances,” he might have seriously considered the offer she had produced. When asked why the circumstances surrounding this transaction were “unusual,” Seller X responded telling her of his agreement “with Realtor® A to pay a $500.00 commission if Seller X found the buyer. And when my nephew decided to buy the house, I jumped at the chance to save some money.”

When Realtor® B learned of this arrangement, she filed a complaint with the Board of Realtors® alleging that Realtor® A had violated Article 3 of the Code of Ethics. The Professional Standards Administrator of the Board referred the complaint to the Grievance Committee, and, after its review, the Grievance Committee referred the complaint back to the Professional Standards Administrator indicating that an ethics hearing should be scheduled.

At the hearing, Realtor® B, in stating her complaint to the Hearing Panel, said that Realtor® A’s failure to disclose the actual terms and conditions of his listing with Seller X was a misrepresentation. She explained that, had she been aware of this arrangement, she might have decided not to accept Realtor® A’s offer of cooperation, since it might put potential purchasers she would produce in a possibly unfair position.

Realtor® A, speaking in his own defense, stated no commission differential would have resulted if the buyer had been procured by either the listing broker or a cooperating broker so whatever other arrangements he had with Seller X were personal and, as listing broker, it was his right to establish the terms and conditions of his relationship with his client.

After careful deliberation, the Hearing Panel concluded that while it was Realtor® A’s right to establish the terms and conditions of the listing contract, the existence of his “special” arrangement with Seller X should have been disclosed as a dual or variable rate commission, since without knowledge of it, cooperating brokers would be unable to make knowledgeable decisions regarding acceptance of the listing broker’s offer to cooperate.

The Hearing Panel concluded that Realtor A had in fact concealed and misrepresented the real facts of the transaction and was in violation of Article 3 of the Code of Ethics as interpreted by Standard of Practice 3-4.

Click to view or print the 2016 Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the National Association of REALTORS