Compliance Update
First Issue - Spring 2019
Over the last year, we have heard from many of you that you are becoming increasingly frustrated with some of the interactions you are having with other REALTORS®.  We hear it at events, at our semi-annual Leadership Update Breakfasts, via our quarterly Member Survey, and through direct calls/emails. More and more, our members are asking, "Why isn’t GRAR doing something about the bad behavior?" I can assure you that our compliance department is working every day monitoring MLS rules, educating members on proper interpretation of the MLS rules, promoting ethical behavior, taking complaint calls from consumers and members, and processing ethics complaints. We are busier than ever in this area, but due to the private nature of the dispute resolution process, we have never publicized our level of activity, shared details about some of the more egregious actions that take place, or discussed the extent of the sanctions that are being handed out by hearing panels. Based on your requests, the board has decided that it is time to share some information with the membership.

In this new, quarterly newsletter, we will share some stats that show the level of activity we have in our compliance department. We will also share the basic "Findings of Fact" from some recent cases so you have examples of the types of practices that are compliance violations and the severity of some of the fines. All references to individuals as well as information that would lead to individuals being identified will be removed.

The goal is to use actual local cases as a teaching tool that will lead to better understanding of the Code of Ethics and fewer instances of questionable or unethical behavior.

I am also happy to announce a couple of changes that will help streamline the complaint process and lead to a speedier resolution for minor infractions.

  • We have launched an online complaint form on our website where you can quickly type in your complaint and upload a PDF with supporting documents. Your complaint will go before the Grievance Committee for review. This is a small change, but combined with other updates, I think it is a significant one.

  • The other major change is that GRAR is announcing the implementation of a Citation Policy. This is a fast-track process for minor complaints that allows them to be settled without a hearing, similar to pleading guilty to a traffic ticket without having to go to court. For instances where you feel unethical behavior has occurred, you can now file a complaint online and a Citation may be issued (for minor infractions) with no further effort on your part. This should address the foremost dissatisfaction with the complaint process, i.e., that hearings are very time- and effort-intensive. For more details on the Citation Policy see the article below.
Jim Yockel, GRAR CEO
GRAR Citation Policy
Launched April 2019
As part of our ongoing effort to promote professionalism in our industry, and to hold GRAR members to a higher standard of professional conduct, the GRAR Board of Directors has established a Citation Policy based on NAR’s recommendation and model policy. In short, the Citation Policy is a way for minor complaints arising from potentially unethical behavior to be handled much more quickly than through the formal grievance process. There are times when minor mistakes are made and it is appropriate for the respondent to say "Sorry, it won’t happen again", pay a small fine, and move on.

Some compare the Citation Policy to a traffic ticket. If you are caught rolling through a stop sign and issued a ticket, you know you did it. You are probably going to admit you did it, pay the fine, and not do it again. It is a relatively minor violation that doesn’t require a court appearance or a trial. The goal of the ticket is to remind you of the law so that you no longer roll through stop signs.

In recent years we've heard from you that the grievance process is too long and cumbersome. In many cases, a member may have an experience that warrants a Professional Standards complaint, but they elect to not file it because the process is too difficult. The Citation Policy may help with many of these complaints.

Here is how it will work.
If you believe you are the victim of a violation of the Code of Ethics you can fill out a complaint as you normally would. If the Grievance Committee feels it meets the criteria for the Citation Policy they will pass it to the Citation Panel. The panel will review and determine whether to issue a citation to the respondent. The respondent can admit the violation and pay the fine or request a full hearing. If they pay the fine, the matter is closed, the record is sealed, and it will only impact the member if they have the same violation in the future. Past citations are not considered as evidence in other matters.

We hope that you will support this new program by reviewing the list of citable offenses attached to the policy and avoid violations of the Code of Ethics. If you are the victim of a violation, we hope that you will support the policy by filing a complaint so that we can educate our members on proper ethical behavior and hold them accountable when they stray from ethical behavior. It has worked well in other markets and we are confident it will work in our market, as well.

If you have any questions, please contact us. We will be happy to discuss this new program with you.
Click To Review These Cases
Delayed Showing / Delayed Negotiation
Currently, the most common complaint we are hearing with regard to the MLS is the misuse of the Delayed Showing/Delayed Negotiation form.

When a listing is entered with a Delayed Showing/Delayed Negotiation form attached, the listing agent is communicating to the entire MLS that the property cannot be shown until the stated showing date. We are seeing a number of situations where these properties are being moved to Under Contract or Pending prior to the stated date when showings would begin.

This is a clear violation of the MLS rules. If you are going to delay showings and negotiations, you must honor the terms of the form and delay all showings and negotiations until the stated dates. The seller cannot overrule this document and decide to allow a showing prior to the date.

Please think this through carefully before making decisions on dates on the Delayed Showings/Delayed Negotiations form. Violations of this will be subject to a fine.
Summary of Professional Standards Activity
So far this year, GRAR has received hundreds of complaint phone calls and emails from GRAR members and members of the public along with a similar number of MLS Violation notifications. Nine of the potential Ethics violations have gone before the Grievance Committee as of April 30. Eleven Ethics cases are pending a hearing. Two Ethics hearings and two Arbitrations have taken place. A total of more than $10,0000 in Ethics fines have been issued year-to-date.  
2018 Summary
MLS Compliance Tips
April was MLS Compliance month at GRAR. Tips were posted on the Matrix News each Monday throughout the month. These tips focus on answering common questions that we've received from members since the new Listing Data Checker has been in use.
Tip #1 - Square Footage
Many members have replied when contacted about square footage on their listings not matching the public/tax records that those records are  showing incorrect square footage for the property.

Per MLS Rules:  Square Footage should match the tax records. If it is determined that the tax records are incorrect, it should be noted in the REALTOR® (Private) Remarks.  Please just make a note in Private Remarks explaining the additional square footage. We recommend putting this in the Public Remarks as well.
Tip #2 - Withdrawn & Relisted
If a property is Withdrawn and relisted with same (or any) broker, it is technically a duplicate listing.
 
Per MLS Rules:   Always search the database prior to entering a new listing  .  This will assure that a listing is not a duplicate  .  A withdrawn property means that there is still a contract on it, but it is not being marketed. Members wishing to “relist” a property that they currently have in W status, must expire first. 
Tip #3 - Which Status?
One of the top violations and most asked question has to do with not changing listing statuses when the status has in fact changed.
  • If the listing is no longer being shown, it MUST go into an off-market status (U or P).
  • If still being shown and there is a contract, it MUST go into C status.
  • While there is always debate around “When is a contract a contract?”, the rule for our MLS is fairly straightforward. When you have both parties’ signatures on a purchase offer, the status must be updated in the MLS within twenty-four (24) hours (except weekends, holidays, and postal holidays).
  • The homeowner does not get to dictate when the listing status can and cannot be changed in our MLS. The rules are the rules. 

Per MLS Rules:  Any change in listed price or other change in the original listing agreement shall be made when authorized in writing by the seller and shall be filed with the service within twenty-four (24) hours (excepting weekends, holidays, and postal holidays.
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