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The duty most Realtors ignore and why the industry is going to hell

An extremely high standard

In Ohio where I practice real estate, all licensed brokers and sales agents are held to an extremely high standard. We have this thing called The Canon of Ethics for the Real Estate Industry, and it’s an important document. Unfortunately, it’s also one that most of us give little thought to once we leave pre-licensing classes. 

Not only do the Articles say we should hold ourselves in high regard both personally, but in business, and that we must stay with current real estate news, legislation, and in education, and we are also responsible for, well, basically, getting rid of any practices in the community which could be damaging to the public, or to the integrity of the real estate industry. The Canon of Ethics applies to all licensees, whether we are members of the National Association of Realtors, or not.  If we are members of NAR, we additionally have the Code of Ethics (COE) which we are bound to follow. In part of the Preamble of NAR’s COE, it says that by being a Realtor, “They identify and take steps, through enforcement of this Code of Ethics and by assisting appropriate regulatory bodies, to eliminate practices which may damage the public or which might discredit or bring dishonor to the real estate profession.”

Realtors are required to make a stand

Due to the Canon of Ethics in Ohio, and NAR’s COE, both as licensees, and as Realtors, we have a duty, to hold every licensee to the same high standard which we ourselves should be held. This doesn’t matter if things are said aloud, and then repeated, which are false about an agent’s business practices or reputation. It includes when an agent is not following real estate regulations and laws, whether it is written, spoken, and retold, or via any technological means.

Filing an ethics complaint isn’t something that should be taken lightly, nor should it be vindictive, and at least in Ohio, the process is not an anonymous one. We have to sign our names on the dotted line, and have supporting documentation as to what we are alleging. This may prevent some people from coming forward when they see issues happening; they may not wish to get involved, it’s just too much trouble and the risk for retribution is high. But it also cuts down on the potential for false ethics complaints, a violation of the COE itself.

The big huge deal with ethics and our industry as a whole is that there are licensees who do and say things which are entirely inappropriate, and sometimes even against the law, but so few other licensees have the stones to do anything about it. Yet the national Realtor COE, and here, in my state, The Canon of Ethics that applies to every single person who holds a real estate license, requires us to step up and take action when we see unethical behavior. These documents are here to prevent our industry from going to Hell in a hand basket, and some of us seem to be content with sitting back, and allow unethical and frankly, unacceptable behavior to continue.

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Written By

Katie Cosner, occasionally known as Kathleen, or KT, is a Realtor® with Cutler Real Estate and is active in her local Board of Realtors® on the Equal Opportunity & Professional Development Committee. She has been floating around online for a number of years, and is on facebook as well as twitter. While Katie has a few hardcore beliefs, three in the Real Estate World to live and die by are; education, ethics, and the law - insert random quote from “A Few Good Men” here. Katie is also an avid Cleveland Indians fan, which really explains quite a bit of her… quirks.



  1. Matt Fuller, GRI

    February 28, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    How are ethics violations handled once filed? Are the results public knowledge, or are all parties bound by confidentiality?


  2. Kathleen Cosner

    February 28, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Here, @ the Board level via the Grievence Comittee, it's confidential, it all actually happens behind closed doors. But @ the State level, because their sanction powers are so much tougher, after an investigation, *if* someone has broken rules; their name, punishment – which usually is additional education, a fine, and public reprimand, and whatever bad thing(s) they have done are published in a quartly newsletter.

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