The professional standard that sets REALTORS® apart from other real estate practitioners is their acceptance and adherence to the Code of Ethics. The Code has been revised many times through the years to reflect current developments in professional real estate practice. But even with the best of intentions, planning and preparation, occasional disagreements arise between REALTORS® and/or between REALTORS® and their clients or customers. As civil litigation becomes increasingly costly, time consuming, and burdensome, there has been a trend among private parties to settle disputes and conflicting claims through alternative means.
LIABILITY - Top 5 Tips for Avoiding Liability
In an effort to help members steer clear of potential lawsuits and complaint filings; there are a few things that should ALWAYS be kept in mind. Paying attention to these simple tips can greatly help you minimize your risk.
- Try not to Act as a Dual Agent - the title alone implies a conflict of interest. Work for either the buyer or the seller. In reality, how can you really work for the best interest of, or be impartial to, both sides?
- Disclose Fully - no matter what it is, no matter how small or insignificant you may think it is. Agents and Brokers must disclose any and all information relative to the transaction.
- Treat your Client Like You Would Want to be Treated - Working with your client means just that. And, that's what you're getting paid for so don't neglect them. Answer their phone calls and emails promptly. Make sure they're aware of what's happening with "their" transaction every step of the way. And, remember, it is their transaction, you may be the facilitator, but it is their transaction.
- Be Above Board In All Your Dealings - Your reputation is on the line. Say what you will do and do what you said you would do. Do a good job and the client will tell 10 people how terrific your are. Do a bad job and your client will tell 20 people how awful the transaction was or worse yet post the information to any number of websites for the entire world to see.
- Treat Your Fellow Agents the Way You Would Want to be Treated - Return calls and emails to other agents as soon as possible regarding requests for showing and/or the status of a contract. Even if you can't turn your attention to them immediately, at the very least acknowledge receipt of the call or email by a short call back, email or text message...don't keep them hanging wonder whether or not you ever got their message.
The Chicago Association of REALTORS® Professional Standards Department offers its members and their clients a vehicle to economically expedite ethics complaints and/or arbitration requests without going to court. Ethics complaints brought before a local association give those parties involved an opportunity to be educated about the Code, and REALTORS® are judged by their peers as opposed to others who may be far less familiar with the practices and customs of the real estate industry.
While the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the National Association establishes objective, enforceable ethical standards governing the professional conduct of REALTORS®, it does not address issues of courtesy or etiquette. Based on input from many sources, the NAR Professional Conduct Working Group of the NAR Professional Standards Committee developed the following list of professional courtesies for use by REALTORS® on a voluntary basis. This list is not all-inclusive, and may be supplemented by local custom and practice.
Pathways to Professionalism:
I. Respect for the Public
- Follow the “Golden Rule” – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
- Respond promptly to inquiries and requests for information.
- Schedule appointments and showings as far in advance as possible.
- Call if you are delayed or must cancel an appointment or showing.
- If a prospective buyer decides not to view an occupied home, promptly explain the situation to the listing broker or the occupant.
- Communicate with all parties in a timely fashion.
- When entering a property, ensure that unexpected situations, such as pets, are handled appropriately.
- Leave your business card if not prohibited by local rules.
- Never criticize property in the presence of the occupant.
- Inform occupants that you are leaving after showings.
- When showing an occupied home, always ring the doorbell or knock – and announce yourself loudly – before entering. Knock and announce yourself loudly before entering any closed room.
- Present a professional appearance at all times; dress appropriately and drive a clean car.
- If occupants are home during showings, ask their permission before using the telephone or bathroom.
- Encourage the clients of other brokers to direct questions to their agent or representative.
- Communicate clearly; don’t use jargon or slang that may not be readily understood.
- Be aware of and respect cultural differences.
- Show courtesy and respect to everyone.
- Be aware of – and meet – all deadlines.
- Promise only what you can deliver – and keep your promises.
- Identify your REALTOR® and your professional status in contacts with the public.
- Do not tell people what you think – tell them what you know.
II. Respect for Property
- Be responsible for everyone you allow to enter listed property.
- Never allow buyers to enter listed property unaccompanied.
- When showing property, keep all members of the group together.
- Never allow unaccompanied access to property without permission.
- Enter property only with permission even if you have a lockbox key or combination.
- When the occupant is absent, leave the property as you found it (lights, heating, cooling, drapes, etc). If you think something is amiss (e.g. vandalism) contact the listing broker immediately.
- Be considerate of the seller’s property. Do not allow anyone to eat, drink, smoke, dispose of trash, use bathing or sleeping facilities, or bring pets. Leave the house as you found it unless instructed otherwise.
- Use sidewalks; if weather is bad, take off shoes and boots inside property.
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