Ombudsman Program – For Consumers and Members
A service provided by the Lakes Area REALTORS® Association
The Ombudsman Program is a structured communication and problem-solving service available to consumers and members of the Lakes Area REALTORS® Association to address complaints and questions that may be ethical, transactional, technical and/or procedural in nature.
To initiate the Ombudsman Process please download and complete the Ombudsman Request Form.
Upon receiving the request form an Ombusdman will be assigned and information relayed. LARA’s Ombudsman will initiate communication with the “Complainant” no later than one business day after receipt of assignment.
Ethics Citation Program for REALTORS(R)
LAKES AREA REALTORS® ASSOCIATION ETHICS CITATION PROGRAM
Effective: January 1, 2016
I. Preliminary Procedures / Review by Citation Panel
A. The Lakes Area Realtors® Association (LARA) has established a Citation Schedule of potential violations that are covered by the Ethics Citation Program, and the fines that apply to those violations. Information about the Ethics Citation Program, including the Citation Schedule, will be provided as part of the information sent to all potential complainants who are considering filing complaints.
B. Citation complaints must be typewritten or clearly handwritten and submitted along with an Ethics Citation Complaint Form citing only Articles 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 12, 14, and/or 16 and only facts covered under certain Standards of Practice within the aforementioned Articles (Section IV. Qualifying Violations). Sufficient documentation and dates should be included. The complaint must be filed within 180 days of the alleged event and must provide documentation of when the event occurred.
C. Anonymous complaints are allowed.
D. When LARA receives a complaint, staff shall review the complaint to determine if it includes allegations that are covered by the Qualifying Violations.
- If the complaint does not include allegations covered by the Qualifying Violations, or it includes a mixture of those that are covered by the Citation Schedule and those that are not, the complaint shall be processed according to the procedures set forth in the most current NAR Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual.
- If the complaint includes only allegations covered under the Qualifying Violations, the Citation Panel will proceed under subsection E., below.
E. If the complaint includes only allegations covered under the Citation Schedule, the Citation Panel will review the information presented in the complaint and, taking all information in the complaint as true on its face, determine if there would be a potential violation of the Code of Ethics. The Citation Panel will not be permitted to add respondents or additional articles of the Code of Ethics at this stage in the proceedings.
- If the Citation Panel determines there is not a potential violation, the complaint shall be dismissed according to the procedures set forth in the most current NAR Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual, preserving the Complainant’s right to appeal the dismissal, provided the complaint was not filed anonymously.
- If the Citation Panel determines there is a potential violation of the Code of Ethics, it shall issue a citation to the Respondent pursuant to Section II below, which shall include the fine(s) as established by the Qualifying Violations.
II. Issuance of Citations
A. The citation will be sent to the Respondent via email and via a traceable method such as certified mail or UPS, as well as to the managing broker of the Respondent’s office.
- A copy of the complaint will be provided to the Respondent and the identity of the Complainant will be provided if the complaint was not filed anonymously.
B. The Respondent will have thirty (30) days from receipt of the citation to provide notice as to whether the Respondent will accept the citation and pay the fine, or whether the Respondent requests a full hearing on the complaint. Failure to respond within the thirty (30) days will be deemed as acceptance of the citation.
- If the Respondent requests a hearing and the complaint was filed anonymously, the Citation Panel will become the complainant and a member of the Citation Panel will attend the hearing to present the complaint.
- Written acceptance of the citation on the form provided by a Respondent shall be deemed to be a final resolution of the complaint, which shall not be appealable or subject to any further review.
- If the Respondent accepts the citation, payment must be received no later than thirty (30) days after the date of acceptance.a. The case will be deemed to be closed upon receipt of payment, and notice will be provided to the Complainant, if known, that the citation(s) has been issued and paid.
b. Failure to pay the citation amount within thirty (30) days will result in the automatic suspension of membership and MLS services until the citation has been paid.
C. If the Respondent requests a hearing, the complaint shall be sent to the Grievance Committee for a full review as though it were a new complaint.
A. There is a limit for an individual Realtor® as to the number and type of citations that he/she may receive, according to the following rules:
- No more than two citations within a consecutive twelve (12) month period, starting on the date the first complaint was filed.
- No more than three citations within a consecutive twenty-four (24) month period, starting on the date the first complaint was filed.
- No more than two citations for the same Article and Standard of Practice within five (5) years.
B. If another complaint is filed against the same Respondent arising out of the same transaction or event covered under a previous citation issued and paid, the complaint will not be considered by the Citation Panel. The Complainant, if known will be informed that the Respondent has already been cited for the same offense.
C. Should an individual Respondent exceed the limits set forth in subsection A of this Section, any further complaints will be processed as a complaint following procedures set forth in the most current NAR Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual. The program administrator will review the citation history of a Respondent to determine eligibility, and if the Respondent is not eligible to receive a citation, the complaint will be forwarded to the Grievance Committee with a notation that the complaint is not covered by the Qualifying Violations. If the complaint was filed anonymously, the Citation Panel will become the complainant and a member of the Citation Panel will attend the hearing to present the complaint.
D. Citation violations are subject to being published according to the rules adopted by the association for ethics violations.
E. Where a Hearing Panel has found a violation of the Code of Ethics after a hearing, it will consider past citations paid by the Respondent within the last three (3) years in establishing a sanction.
F. The Program Administrator will review the citation history of a Respondent to determine eligibility, and if the Respondent is not eligible to receive a citation, the complaint will be forwarded to the Grievance Committee.
G. The Program Administrator will track the number of citations issued, the number of citations paid, and the violations for which citations are issued. This information may be provided in the aggregate to the LARA Board of Directors or to the local associations, but will not include details about the complaints nor identify the Respondents.
IV. Qualifying Violations
A. The following violations qualify for the Ethics Citation Program:
- Accessing or using listed or managed property on terms or conditions other than those authorized by the owner or seller (SOP 1-16) $1,000
- Failure to disclose existence of dual or variable rate commissions (SOP 3-4) $500
- Failure to disclose existence of accepted offers to any broker seeking cooperation (SOP 3-6) $250
- Providing access to listed property on terms other than those established by the owner or the listing broker (SOP 3-9) $1,000
- Failure to provide written disclosure of Realtor’s® interest in property being bought or sold $500
- Providing professional service without disclosing interest in property $500
- Accepting any commission, rebate or profit on expenditures without client’s knowledge or consent $500
- Failure to present a true picture in real estate communication, marketing and advertising $250
- Failure to disclose status as a real estate professional in advertising, marketing and other real estate communications $250
- Failure to disclose potential compensation or benefit received from a third party for services provided free to a client (SOP 12-2) $250
- Advertising or offering to sell/lease property without authority of owner or owner’s authorized agent (SOP 12-4) $500
- Failure to disclose name of real estate firm in advertising in a readily apparent manner(SOP 12-5) $250
- Failure to disclose status of both owner/landlord and Realtor® or licensee when advertising property in which Realtor® or licensee has ownership interest (SOP 12-6) $500
- Falsely claiming to have “sold” property (SOP 12-7) $250
- Failure to disclose on a website the firm’s name and state of licensure in a reasonable and readily apparent manner (SOP 12-9) $250
- Failure to present a true picture in advertising and representations to the public including Internet content posted and the URLs and domain names used. (SOP 12-10) $250
- Registration or use of deceptive URL or domain name (SOP 12-12) $500
- Representing that the Realtor® has a designation, certification or other credential that the Realtor® is not legitimately entitled to use (SOP 12-13) $500
- Failure to cooperate in any professional standards proceeding or investigation $500
- Use of terms of an offer to modify listing broker’s offer of compensation (SOP 16-16) $500
- Placement of for sale/lease sign on property without permission of seller/ landlord (SOP 16-19) $250|
B. Fines for citations shall be as follows:
- For the first violation: as established in Section IV
- For the second violation: as established in Section IV, plus $500
- For the third violation: as established in Section IV, plus $750