Dear Joey: Code of Ethics’ headings seem directed to specific people – fellow Realtors, members of the public, etc. Does that limit who can file certain types of ethics complaints? Or are the headings just headings?

ORLANDO, Fla. – Dear Joey: In the Code of Ethics, the articles appear under headings – Duties to Clients & Customers, Duties to the Public and Duties to Realtors®. Do these headings bear any weight on who can file a complaint? – Policy Guru

Dear Policy Guru: You pose a great question that I’m sure many have asked in the past. In fact, we recently had a related question. That member asked, “Can a member of the public cite articles 15-17 in a complaint? I am only wondering because the heading for those articles says, “Duties to Realtors,” and as they are “Realtor to Realtor,” a member of the public can’t cite that in a complaint, can they?”

While I understand why these questions are asked, I would caution against reading too much into those headings. They’re merely a guide that organizes what the activities the articles pertain to – not who can cite these articles in a complaint. When you see the headings – Duties to Clients & Customers, Duties to the Public and Duties to Realtors – you know the articles in that section deal with those topics.

Furthermore, on page 43 of the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual, it states:

“Any person, whether a member or not, having reason to believe that a member is guilty of any conduct subject to disciplinary action, may file a complaint in writing in their own name with the Professional Standards Administrator, dated and signed by complainant, stating the facts on which it is based (Form #E-1, Complaint, Part Six), provided that the complaint is filed within one hundred eighty (180) days after the facts constituting the matter complained of could have been known in the exercise of reasonable diligence or within one hundred eighty (180) days after the conclusion of the transaction or event, whichever is later. (Revised 5/13).”

Given the language above, any person may file an ethics complaint, and they can cite any article they believe the member violated.

Say a member of the public files a complaint citing article 15 alleging that a Realtor said something about another real estate professional. Although, this article falls under the Duties to Realtors heading, there is no such thing as a “Realtor to Realtor” article. Anyone, whether a member or not, can file and the Grievance Committee would accept it for review.

At the end of the day, the Code of Ethics’ goal is to increase the professionalism of all Realtors and the industry. Although words matter, I encourage you to try not to read too much into certain items. Simply focus on how the Code is written and read it as such. Try not to overthink or add context that may not be there.

Joey Sale is the Director of Local Association Services for Florida Realtors

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