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Ethics

Do The Right Thing

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New Restrictions?

After the Mid-Year meetings in Washington , a change was made to Standard of Practice 15-2, and a new standard of practice was approved for use with article 15 of the code of ethics. Standards of practice are used to clarify and explain articles of the code of ethics, and these two were designed to enhance member’s understanding of their obligations as REALTORS in respect to blogging and other form of electronic publication.

Article 15 discusses the obligation of REALTORS to avoid “bad-mouthing” their competitors. It states:

REALTORS shall not knowingly or recklessly make false or misleading statements about competitors, their businesses, or their business practices. (Amended 1/92)

The changes to the existing standard of practice, and the creation of the new were aimed at having REALTORS ” publish a clarification about, or to remove statements made by, others on electronic media the REALTOR® controls once the REALTOR® knows the statement is false or misleading”.

And immediately , everyone became an attorney.

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It’s not a big deal

The change is really a clarification, not a new obligation, And though the big concern that was raised was regarding the removal of the untrue statement, and some concern was expressed about the enforcement, the issues arose from a lack of understanding about the obligation and the professional standards procedure.

To begin, if you think you have some liability by removing an untrue statement, all that would be required to comply would be to add a comment that says, “It has come to my attention that the statement made above by so and so in inaccurate – or untrue (whichever is appropriate)”.  Personally, if someone used my blog to make improper statements about a competitor, I would have no problem removing the statement, and accepting the consequences that my “right action” might create.

In terms of the enforcement of the Article (standards of practice cannot be violated, only articles of the code can) the professional standards process requires the review of the ethics issue by a grievance committee and then, if the grievance committee determines that the complaint, if taken as true would constitute a violation of the code, it is referred to a  professional standards hearing panel.

And That was the Second Concern

A comparison was made to the legal defamation process. But professional standards hearings are not courts of law, and are not bound by the evidentiary rules of those august bodies. These panels are made of of educated real estate professionals who review the matter in the light of their experience in the industry. Their job is to provide the respondent with due process, and come to s determination on the matter, applying appropriate sanctions if the respondent is found guilty of violating one of the articles of the code.

In this case, only by not clarifying or removing the untrue statement would the respondent be guilty of anything – a matter thaa should be simple to comply with.I think that the concerns raised were raised by people with legal backgrounds that had more limited knowledge of the professional standards process. Most of the bloggers I have spoken to were not concerned about the modifications.
I would  like to hear from you what concerns and issues active bloggers and REALTORS might have about the matter… I look forward to the conversation.

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photo credit: “money will come to you when you are doing the right thing” courtesy of creativecommons.org

Written By

Bill is an unusual blend of Old & New - The CEO Century 21 Advantage Gold (Philadelphia's Largest Century 21 company and BuzzBuilderz (a Social Media Marketing Company), He is a Ninja CEO, blending the Web 1 and 2.0 world together in a fashion that stretches the fabric of the universe. You can follow him on twitter @Billlublin or Facebook or LinkedIn.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Joe Loomer

    May 27, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Bill,

    I would completely agree with you on this. If you’re down at the level that you have to make comments (posts) about your competition, you probably need to find another line of work (at least from an agent’s perspective).

    I think what you’re seeing is a symptom of the market. Recently, my wife took a Buyer out to the Aiken area. Over the previous months, this lady had spoken via email with a few of the listing agents of the properties they were viewing. A couple of the listing agents – seemingly in cohoots – where so upset with the fact that their own lack of professionalism had led this woman to choose to work with my wife as her Buyers Agent that they decided to hurl insult and slander on my wife and our firm – at the same time as setting up the appointments to show the properties!

    Instead of heading to Aiken with our boxing gloves – my wife and I talked about this at length and came to the conclusion that since Aiken is a higher-end neck of the woods, these agents where merely voicing their own desperation – intent on being on both sides of the deal instead of serving their clients interests. Less than 3% of properties listed over $350K in our area sell right now, and this client was signficantly higher in price range.

    Instead of responding in kind, my wife took the high road, thanked God for the opportunity to work with this client, and set the appointments. She’s an amazing woman with no qualms about defending herself, but it was what it was, and she and I both understood the underlying current of the market which no-doubt affected these other agents (and their families).

    Don’t know the source of this quote, but it rings true:

    “Never underestimate your competition’s ability to make a bad decision.”

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  2. Brandie Young

    May 27, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Interesting. The fact is, in today’s litigious society, anyone with enough time could find something they consider defaming.

    Sounds like we need some E & O insurance for bloggers.

  3. Jay Thompson

    May 28, 2009 at 12:08 am

    If someone comes on my blog “talking smack” about someone else, their comment will be swiftly deleted. If they come back and do it again, they’ll be swiftly banned.

    If they don’t like it, tough. It’s my blog, my rules.

    I don’t need the NAR, the judiciary or anyone else to tell me what is right and what is wrong and what I can/can’t/should do. My parents did a pretty good job of that 40-something years ago.

  4. Lani at Agent Genius

    May 28, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Brandie, hush yo mouth! There are already too many hands in these pockets, girl! 😉

  5. Bob Wilson

    May 28, 2009 at 11:18 am

    “I don’t need the NAR, the judiciary or anyone else to tell me what is right and what is wrong and what I can/can’t/should do.”

    Or at least we shouldn’t.

  6. Bill Lublin

    June 14, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Jay; I agree with you that neither you nor I nor most of the folk we know would do that, but we do need a Code of Ethics to establish the standards of practice for those foks who didn;t get the benefit of understanding just what the right thing is – and sadly there are too many people like that out there.

    Brandi; Not sure its about legal liability, more about what we should be doing to each other though a big shout out to Lani who points out that we have way too many univited hands in our pockets

    Joe; I don;t underestimate the ability of an opponent ot make a bad decision, and your wife did absolutely the right thing – but this also addresses comments tat mght be made by consumers that are untrue- and our responsibility to correct the problem

    Thanks for reading

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