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Big Brother May Not Be Watching,
But Sellers Sure Are
In this day and age, it is not unrealistic for REALTORS® to assume that there may be an extra set of eyes and ears on them and their potential buyers as they tour a property for sale. From old fashioned nanny cams, to newer technology in home monitoring and security systems, this type of equipment has become common in many homes and allows sellers the ability to monitor what showing agents and their buyers are doing and saying inside the home.

Typically, a topic such as this one would result in discourse focused on a variety of concerns from privacy, to courtesy, to ethical and/or legal issues involved in the sale of a home. Since the COVID-19 Pandemic began, however, there has a been a shift in some sellers’ motivation for monitoring their property toward health and safety concerns.

In recent months, the GMAR has received numerous complaints from listing agents, and angry sellers alike, over the violation of instructions for touring the property including, but not limited to masking requirements for anyone entering the home. If a seller has outlined a mask requirement, all agents and buyers entering the home must wear a mask. If a buyer does not want to wear a mask, it is advised that the showing agent does not enter the home without first contacting the listing brokerage to discuss possible alternatives for a tour. It is also strongly recommended that showing agents with buyers who are adamant about not wearing masks do not circumvent a seller’s rules and allow the buyers to tour the property without a mask on. Each home belongs to a unique seller and showings in his/her/their home should be conducted according to that seller's unique set of rules.

In addition, REALTORS® are held to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and could be in violation of the following:

Duties to Clients and Customers
Article 1: Standards of Practice 1-16. REALTORS® shall not access or use, or permit or enable others to access or use, listed or managed property on terms or conditions other than those authorized by the owner or seller.

Article 3: Standards of Practice 3-9. REALTORS® shall not provide access to listed property on terms other than those established by the owner or listing broker.

As a REALTOR®, by not following the showing instructions yourself, or allowing potential buyers to violate the requirements, you could be acting in a way that results in an ethics complaint being filed with the GMAR. In addition, your actions could bring negative media attention which may negatively impact the real estate industry, or the brokerages, agents or potential buyers involved in the violation of a seller’s rules. The public does not look favorably on our industry when we choose to not follow the ethical standards that we are supposed to hold ourselves to.  
 
If you have any questions or comments on this matter please contact Scott Bush.
Case Interpretation Relating to Article 10-
Denial of Equal Professional Service
On a Saturday morning, REALTOR® B, a salesperson affiliated with REALTOR® A, answered an e-mail from Prospect C, a recent college graduate who was moving into the city to take his first teaching job at Northwest High School. Prospect C was married, had two young children, and was a veteran.

After working with Prospect C to determine his family could afford a three-bedroom home in the $240,000 range, Realtor® B described available properties near Northwest High School and set up appointments to show houses to Prospect C. That afternoon, REALTOR® B showed Prospect C and his wife three houses in neighborhoods near the high school.

On Monday, at a faculty meeting, Prospect C met Prospect D, who was also moving into the city to take a teaching position at the same high school and who was also in the market for a home. Prospect D was married with two young children and was also a veteran.

Prospect C told Prospect D of REALTOR® B’s knowledge of the market and VA financing and how helpful he had been. Prospect D called REALTOR® A’s office that afternoon and asked for REALTOR® B. and asked for REALTOR® B. REALTOR® B met Prospect D and determined Prospect D could also afford a home in the $240,000 range. Prospect D told REALTOR® B that he was also a new teacher at Northwest High School and had been referred by Prospect C. Prospect D was black.

REALTOR® B showed Prospect D houses in several neighborhoods undergoing racial transition but did not show Prospect D homes in neighborhoods near the high school. Prospect D asked about houses closer to Northwest High School. REALTOR® B replied that he had no knowledge of any homes in that area for which Prospect D could qualify. The next day, Prospect D, while visiting Prospect C, related his problems in finding a home near the high school and learned that REALTOR® B had shown Prospect C several homes near the high school. Prospect D filed a complaint with the Association of REALTORS® claiming that REALTOR® B had discriminated against him and his family by not offering equal professional services.

The complaint was reviewed by the Grievance Committee. REALTOR® B was charged with an alleged violation of Article 10, and the complaint was referred to a Hearing Panel of the Association’s Professional Standards Committee for hearing. At the hearing, REALTOR® B admitted that he did not use the same efforts to show Prospect D properties in neighborhoods near the high school as he did with Prospect C because he felt Prospect D and his family would feel more comfortable living in a racially integrated neighborhood.

The Hearing Panel found REALTOR® B in violation of Article 10 of the Code of Ethics.
We hope you enjoyed Issue #8 of Ethics Exchange 2020 brought to you by the Greater Milwaukee Association of REALTORS® (GMAR). The GMAR created this newsletter, each issue dedicated to a unique issue, because the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, on which our industry is built, is the foundation of what it means to be a REALTOR®.
Your proactive support of the Code of Ethics will assure your fellow REALTORS®, as well as members of the public, that every member of GMAR operates under the highest ethical standards.
Questions, comments or concerns regarding this issue can be directed to
Scott Bush at the GMAR Office (414-778-4929 or scott@gmar.ws).