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Op/Ed

Isn’t it time to make these Code of Ethics violation reporting theories a reality?

Code of Ethics violation reporting has long lacked transparency, so can this old theory mixed with some new theories improve public perception of Realtors?

transparency

This editorial was originally featured here in July 2014, yet rings just as true today.

In 2009, Virginia real estate broker, Jim Duncan opined that the level of transparency in the industry could be improved and suggested that in order for the public to trust real estate professionals, perhaps ethics conversations should be held in public, given the public nature of the profession.

Duncan wrote years ago, asking, “How about a badge on local associations’ pages, “no ethics complaints in the past 123 days”? To be credible our system has to be credible.”

He noted, “It is incumbent upon us to discuss our collective ethical successes and shortcomings,” and asks how much transparency is too much.

Fast forward to the Code of Ethics today

In my opinion, the industry has done very little to improve transparency surrounding ethics, and reporting continues to be a burden for all involved. Recently, the California Association of Realtors® issued a report which called for “significantly more robust enforcement of the Code of Ethics.”

The proposal calls for violations to be punished more swiftly, and for unethical behavior to be published and “significant enough to deter future unethical behavior,” as they plan to develop a database all local associations will be required to post disciplinary actions to.

This is a step in the right direction, but more can be done. Why do this at a state level? Why not a national database with standards? Why put some Realtors under the microscope and others out of the public light?

But wait, more can be done!

If not a database, why not continue to improve the reporting process? I’ve long argued against the process being misaligned with the American standards for justice, as most associations do not allow anonymous complaints. But why would they? That would mean a lot more work for the committees and staff, and of course it would lead to some vicious competitors lodging false complaints against each other.

But when I ask a room of Realtors to raise their hands if they’ve witnessed a Code of Ethics violation, hands fly up unanimously. Then, if I ask how many reported the violation, the hands are sparse. When asked why, the answer is consistently twofold – first, it’s too much of a time consuming hassle, and second, the lack of anonymity leaves the do-gooder vulnerable to retribution. Again, how misaligned with our own nation’s justice system can we be? Imagine if you couldn’t call 911 anonymously?!

The Code of Ethics is a valuable asset Realtors have, and a Code that is respectable. But without improvement in the reporting process, the rest is all hot air. Is Duncan’s idea one that should be revisited, or should we change the very structure of reporting?

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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