REALTORS® are held to the highest ethical standards, as outlined by NAR's Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. When members of the public or other REALTORS® feel they have been treated unfairly, they may choose to file an ethics complaint.
An alternative to filing an ethics complaint may also provide a resolution. We highly suggest that those who feel they have been treated unfairly may want to contact the real estate professional’s manager or principal broker at the office or firm location to discuss the situation and try to work out a solution. Communication is key to resolving the majority of disputes.
Only REALTORS® are subject to the Code of Ethics. Complaints against agents and brokers who are not REALTORS® may be addressed by contacting the Maryland Real Estate Commission or the courts. Ethics complaints must deal only with issues regarding the Code of Ethics, not legal issues or real estate regulations.
What are the steps of the complaint process?
- An ethics complaint must be filed within 180 days from the time a complainant knew (or reasonably should have known) that potentially unethical conduct took place. Complaints must cite one or more articles of the Code of Ethics that may have been violated.
- The complaint is reviewed by the presiding association's Grievance Committee to determine if the allegations made, if taken as true, might support a violation of the article(s) cited in the complaint.
- The Grievance Committee may forward the complaint to a hearing panel or dismiss the complaint. A decision to forward the complaint to a hearing panel does not mean the Grievance Committee has decided the Code of Ethics has been violated. This decision is based solely on the determination that if the allegations are found by the hearing panel to have occurred, then a violation of the Code of Ethics may also have occurred.
- The burden of proof is "clear, strong, and convincing." Respondents are considered innocent unless proven to have violated the Code of Ethics. Only articles cited in a complaint may be considered by a hearing panel. Findings of fact are not appealable. Complainants may appeal if they feel they were denied a full and fair hearing.
Which local board/association has jurisdiction over disputes or complaints?
For local board contact info click here.
Local Board/Association County Affiliation
Anne Arundel County Association (Anne Arundel County)
Greater Baltimore Board (Baltimore County and Baltimore City)
Bay Area Association (Caroline, Kent and Queen Anne's Counties)
Greater Capital Area Association (Montgomery County and the District of Columbia)
Carroll County Association (Carroll County)
Cecil County Board (Cecil County)
Coastal Association (Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester Counties)
Frederick County Association (Frederick County)
Garrett County Board (Garrett County)
Harford County Association (Harford County)
Historic Highlands Association (Allegany County)
Howard County Association ( Howard County)
Mid-Shore Board (Dorchester and Talbot Counties)
Pen-Mar Regional Association (Washington County)
Prince George's County Association ( Prince George's County)
Southern Maryland Association (Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's Counties)
What kind of discipline can result from an ethics violation?
REALTORS® found to have violated the Code of Ethics may be disciplined in the following ways:
- Required to attend courses designed to increase understanding of ethical duties or other responsibilities of real estate professionals
- Have their membership suspended or terminated for serious or repeated violations
REALTOR® board/associations cannot require REALTORS® to pay money to parties filing ethics complaints, award punitive damages, or suspend or revoke a real estate professional's license.