Realtors® who engage in hate speech or discriminatory conduct even outside of their real estate practice could face disciplinary action under the Code of Ethics. The National Association of Realtors®’ Board of Directors approved a proposal intended to hold members to a higher standard of ethics in everything they do on Friday, November 18th, 2020. The changes go into effect immediately but do not retroactively apply to members’ past activities or actions. Realtors® who make discriminatory remarks, on their business or personal social media accounts, can be subject to disciplinary action.Any complaint alleging a violation of Article 10’s prohibition on hate speech can now be brought to a hearing panel at a local Realtor® association. Members accused of violating the standard of practice will be given an opportunity to present their case and defend themselves before the hearing panel, which would weigh the specifics of the alleged violation, whether the comments were made inadvertently or unintentionally, and whether the member has any previous ethics complaints. NAR’s professional standards policies include a defined process of checks and balances to protect members and evaluate potential Code violations.
The new rules extend Article 10 of the Code, which already prohibits discrimination in professional services and employment practices, to include discriminatory speech and conduct. Article 10 prohibits Realtors® from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The new Standard of Practice, 10-5, will now state: “Realtors® must not use harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs” against members of those protected classes.
NAR’s Professional Standards Committee will continue to develop case interpretations to assist members and professional standards enforcement volunteers understand the Code. NAR has produced training and resource materials to assist leaders with understanding and implementing the changes and will roll those out in the coming weeks.