When to File an Ethics Complaint
- REALTOR® Members Only: Minnesota REALTORS® is a private trade association and those real estate licensees who choose to become a member of the REALTOR® Association voluntarily agree to abide by a Code of Ethics. The REALTORS® Code of Ethics imposes duties above and in addition to those imposed by law or regulation that apply only to real estate professionals who choose to become REALTORS®. To learn more about the National Association of REALTORS® ("NAR") Code of Ethics, please visit the NAR's Code of Ethics and Professional Standards web page.
- Determining REALTOR® Status: To determine if the real estate licensee is a REALTOR® member, you can do a member search on our website.
- Talk to the Licensee/Broker First: Many difficulties between real estate agents and their clients result from misunderstanding, miscommunication or lack of adequate communication. If you have not done so already, we would encourage you to relay your concerns to the REALTOR® involved and/or contact the principal broker or office manager regarding the problems you are having with the transaction.
- Ombuds: If you wish to have assistance in reaching out to the REALTOR® before filing an ethics complaint, you can also request to speak with our Ombuds. An Ombuds is an individual appointed to facilitate disputes through constructive communication and advocating for consensus and understanding. This procedure, is intended to provide enhanced communications and initial problem-solving capacity. Read more here.
- File a Complaint: If you are still not satisfied and believe you have a grievance with a REALTOR® member, you may want to consider filing an ethics complaint.
How to File an Ethics Complaint
- Filing a Complaint (Online): Please complete our Form #E-1 Ethics Complaint form. through our online filing software*, which will take you through the filing process step by step. Please make sure you complete all the information requested in this form, including your name and contact information. You must cite one or more of the 17 Articles of the Code of Ethics that may have been violated and include a narrative explaining why you believe there has been a violation of each. You are also welcome to upload and attach to your complaint any additional evidence that helps explain your case.
i. The 180-day timeline (below) will continue to run if a request is not properly filed.
ii. MN REALTORS® cannot take any action on anonymous complaints. Any anonymous complaints received will be discarded.
iii. Hearing Panels decide whether the Articles expressly cited in complaints were violated - not whether Standards of Practice or case interpretations were violated.
- Code of Ethics: See the Code of Ethics to assist you in determining what Articles you believe have been violated.> Translations of the Code of Ethics can be found here. (Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese)
- Narrative Description: The MN REALTORS® strictly adheres to due process rights for both the complainant and the respondent. Due process requires, among other things, that the respondent know who is filing the charge against them and be provided with full and complete knowledge of the charges made. Therefore, when filing, you will also need to include a narrative description of the circumstances that lead you to believe the Code of Ethics may have been violated and any other documentation (e.g. listing agreements, purchase agreements, representation contracts, or disclosure forms) that supports your complaint. The online filing process will prompt you to include the narrative and ask if you have additional evidence to upload.
- 180-day Filing Deadline: Requests must be filed within 180 days of the time that the alleged offense and facts relating to it could have been known by the complainant in the exercise of reasonable diligence or within 180 days after the conclusion of the transaction or event, whichever is later.
- Questions: Please contact the Professional Standards Department at 952.912.2675 or email us at email@example.com.
Hearing Process Flow Chart
This section provides a brief overview of the ethics complaint process from start to finish. For more information regarding the process, please refer to the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual as adopted by the Minnesota REALTORS®
- The Grievance Review: Once a formal written complaint is received, Minnesota REALTORS® will forward a copy of the written complaint to the respondent and respondent’s broker (if applicable) and appoint a Grievance Review Panel (“GRP”) of three members from the Minnesota REALTORS® Professional Standards Committee to review the written complaint. The Grievance Review Panel ("GRP") is like a grand jury in that the GRP will evaluate the complaint only to determine whether the complaint presented, taken as true on its face, warrants a hearing.
The GRP will only review the written complaint and will not require the Respondent submit any response. (A response will be requested if the GRP determines a hearing is warranted.) For further information about the GRP considerations, please see the Consideration of an Ethics Complaint by the Grievance Review Panel.
Dismissal, Insufficient Complaint, or Hearing:
Dismissal: If the GRP determines that the allegations in the complaint, if taken as true, do not demonstrate a possible violation of the Code, or there is some other reason the complaint should not move forward (e.g. not timely filed), the complaint will be dismissed. Complainant may appeal the dismissal by filing Form #E-22 Appeal of Grievance Review Panel Dismissal of Ethics Complaint within 20 days from transmittal of the dismissal notice.
Insufficient Complaint: If a GRP cannot make a determination because the information presented is vague, insufficient or otherwise unclear, the GRP will not move the complaint forward to a hearing and the file will be closed. However, because the complaint was not dismissed, the complainant may refile the case with additional information to correct the insufficiencies, but may not appeal the dismissal.
Hearing: If the GRP determines the facts given appear to indicate a possible violation of the Code of Ethics, the GRP will refer the complaint to the Professional Standards Committee for a hearing before an ethics Hearing Panel made up of members of the Minnesota REALTORS® Professional Standards Committee other than those who served on the GRP. Questions regarding whether the ethics complaint was timely filed or other administrative issues may be considered at a Pre-Hearing Meeting at the determination of the Chair. A Respondent may request a Pre-Hearing Meeting by submitting the Form #E-24 Request for Pre-Hearing Meeting.
- Ethics Hearing: If the GRP refers the complaint for a hearing, the MN REALTORS® will appoint an impartial, unbiased, and experienced panel of five members of the MN REALTORS® Professional Standards Committee to hear the complaint. The MN REALTORS® ensures that the due process rights of all parties are protected in the hearing process. For example, Complainant(s) and Respondents may be represented by legal or REALTOR® counsel (or both), call witnesses, examine and cross-examine parties and witnesses, present evidence, and challenge the qualifications of the panel members and alternates selected to hear the case. For further details about the Ethics Hearing procedures please see the Outline of Procedure for Ethics Hearing.
- Appeal Rights: If the complaint goes to a hearing, the Hearing Panel will determine whether a violation occurred. If a violation has occurred, the Hearing Panel will also recommend discipline. Both the complainant and the respondent have the right to appeal the decision of the Hearing Panel by filing Form #E-13, Request for Ethics Appeal within 20 days after the Hearing Panel’s final decision has been transmitted. The appeal must be accompanied by a $250 filing fee, which is refunded in the event the Appeal Panel overturns the Hearing Panel’s decision, partially ($125) is refunded if the decision is partially upheld, and not refunded if the decision is upheld. For further details about the Ethics Appeal Hearing procedures, please see the Outline of Procedure for Ethics Appeal.
Complainant: The complainant may appeal based only on alleged procedural deficiencies or other lack of procedural due process that may have deprived him/her of the opportunity for a full and fair hearing.
Respondent: The respondent may appeal based upon (1) misapplication or misinterpretation of an Article(s) of the Code of Ethics; (2) procedural deficiency or any lack of procedural due process that may have deprived him/her of the opportunity for a full and fair hearing; (3) the discipline recommended by the Hearing Panel.
- Ratification Panel: If no appeal is filed within 20 days of the transmission of the final decision to the parties, the recommendation of the Hearing Panel will be automatically forwarded to a Ratification Panel. The Ratification Panel will adopt the Hearing Panel’s recommendation and issue its order accordingly, unless the Ratification Panel is (1) concerned with a possible procedural deficiency; (2) concerned with the appropriateness of the recommendation of sanction; or (3) concludes that the findings of fact do not support a violation of the Code of Ethics. The Ratification Panel is an impartial, unbiased, and experienced panel of three members of the Minnesota REALTORS® Executive Committee. Please see Part Four, Section 23 of the Manual for further information.
What MN REALTORS® Can and Cannot Do for a Complainant
CAN: The MN REALTORS® can determine whether the Code of Ethics has been violated and discipline REALTORS® for violating the Code of Ethics. Hearing Panels will decide whether the Articles expressly cited in complaints were violated. If a REALTOR® is found in violation of the Code of Ethics, the Hearing Panel will recommend disciplinary sanctions to the Ratification Panel that is commensurate with the offense and within the Sanctioning Guidelines.
CANNOT: The MN REALTORS® cannot determine whether the law or real estate regulations have been broken, cannot require REALTORS® pay money to parties filing ethics complaints, cannot award “punitive damages” for violations of the Code of Ethics, and cannot suspend or revoke a real estate professional’s license to practice real estate.
Questions: Please contact the Professional Standards Department at 952.912.2675 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*If you require paper forms, you may print the Form #E-1 Ethics Complaint form and utilize it. Please note choosing transmittal via U.S. Mail may result in slower notifications than via electronic mail. Mail should be sent to: Minnesota REALTORS® Professional Standards Department, 5750 Lincoln Drive, Edina, MN 55436 or email@example.com.