Professional Standards Newsletter, March 2012

Posted on March 3, 2012 by AAR

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OMBUDSMAN PROGRAM SUSPENSION
The 2012 NAR Professional Liability Insurance Policy for 2012 limited coverage for the Ombudsmen Program to consultations solely about the association’s ethics hearing, arbitration and NAR Dispute Resolution processes. This is a significant change from years past and severely limits the Program.  Discussions with NAR regarding making insurance coverage available for the Ombudsmen Program as it now exists are on-going and AAR is seeking other insurance coverage.  AAR has suspended the Ombudsmen Program until the insurance issue is resolved.  We are saddened that we must take this action and are hopeful that we will be able to reactivate the Program in the near future.  Last year, AAR’s Ombudsmen handled 104 requests with an 80+% success rate.NEW ETHICS CITATION PROGRAM
Ethics complaints filed at the Arizona Association of REALTORS® (“AAR”) and forwarded by the Grievance Committee (“GVC”), as alleging a possible violation of the Code of Ethics, result in an ethics hearing. An ethics hearing involves the complainant, the respondent REALTOR®, a hearing panel, a court reporter and an AAR Professional Standards Administrator. The respondent’s REALTOR® principal also has the right to be present. During the hearing, both parties have the right to present witnesses, submit evidence pertinent to the case, and to cross-examine witnesses. After the hearing is adjourned, the hearing panel makes a decision by simple majority vote. (Get more information on the ethics hearing process http://www.aaronline.com/law-ethics/risk-management/Nov08.aspx .)
Beginning in April 2012, a new program will be implemented for resolving certain ethics complaints that would have otherwise required this hearing process. The new Ethics Citation Program will allow a REALTOR® member to resolve an ethics complaint without a hearing by paying a citation amount (similar to the administrative fee imposed in an ethics hearing) and attending a class addressing the Code of Ethics article that is the subject of the complaint. The purpose of the program is to streamline the ethics complaint process in the applicable cases while fulfilling the purpose of Code of Ethics enforcement – educating members about their professional obligations and serving as a meaningful deterrent to future violations. The advantages of resolving a complaint without a hearing include being less burdensome on both parties and more cost effective in terms of volunteer time and actual expenses. Further, complaints processed through the program should be resolved more quickly, which benefits everyone involved.
READ MORE: http://aaronline.com/aars-new-professional-standards-ethics-citation-program/

A BUYERS’ AND SELLERS’ GUIDE TO MULTIPLE OFFER NEGOTIATIONS
This consumer-focused brochure is designed for use by REALTORS® to inform buyers and sellers of the potential consequences of multiple offer situations. It was approved by the Professional Standards Committee at the 2005 Annual Convention in San Francisco (CA) and is excerpted from the “Presenting and Negotiating Multiple Offers” white paper found in the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual.
http://www.realtor.org/mempolweb.nsf/6dcbb4f4d211783186256e7b0057d988/0f4b13e9571c62098625744300619fdc?OpenDocument

CODE OF ETHICS
AAR RECEIVED 32 ARTICLE 12 (Advertising) COMPLAINTS LAST YEAR
What does Articles 12’s “true picture” requirement mean? When advertising, how should terms and conditions for inducements (prizes, premiums, and discounts) to list, sell, or lease property be explained? How do Standards of Practice 12-8 through 12-13 relate to websites and the Internet?  Find the answers to these questions and more at:  http://www.realtor.org/law_and_policy/code_of_ethics/coev_article_12  and read Jan Steward’s article below.

BE PREPARED TO DEFEND YOUR TITLE
Advertising yourself as #1 in your marketplace?  Be prepared to prove it! 
By Jan Steward, AAR Risk Management Specialist
Complaints are being received by the Professional Standards Department at AAR alleging agent violations of Article 12 fairly frequently.  It is an age old story that travels through different regions of the state and seems to peak periodically.

If you, as a REALTOR®,  are advertising yourself as the:  TOP AGENT, TOP PRODUCER, NUMBER 1 IN LISTINGS OR SALES, you may be asked to “prove it”.

Article 12 of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NARs) Code of Ethics states:

“REALTORS® shall be honest and truthful in their real estate communication and shall present a true picture in advertising, marketing, and other representations. “

Statics indicating a “REALTOR’S® sales volume and comparisons with other firms can be impressive, but if inaccurate, untrue, or misleading, their use injures the pubic and violates Article 12. (NAR’s Professionalism in Real Estate Practice 2012)

If you are the Number 1 agent in your local region, and are being challenged, you should be able to provide documentation to substantiate your assertion.   Most local MLS’s provide statistical agent reports for leading sales volume, or listing volume, for areas such as vacant land sales, new home construction sales, condo/townhomes sales, etc.  If you are advertising in this manner, be prepared to defend your title.

In the article “5 Everyday Ethical Dilemmas” by Bruce Aydt this subject is referenced in Dilemma 3 - Ethics in Advertising.  

The scenario: You’re looking for a way to differentiate yourself from the competition and give your marketing materials a kick. You decide on a new tagline: “The No. 1 Real Estate Agent for You.”

The risk: Stretching the truth. If your statements are truthful and accurate, it’s not wrong to tell prospects how you measure up to competitors. But when you make an advertising statement about being the “No. 1” agent, you could be misleading the public.

What to do: Making the claim of being number one is perhaps the most abused or misused term in real estate advertising, Aydt says. If you really want to use that phrase, be careful to explain what you mean by “No. 1.” For example, cite your market share, a date range, and a specific geographic area.

Experts advise focusing on your own merits and what you bring to a prospective client rather than comparing yourself directly to competitors.

For more information on this topic read “5 Everyday Ethical Dilemmas” at http://realtormag.realtor.org/law-and-ethics/ethics/article/2007/03/5-everyday-ethical-dilemmas

PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS

PS CHAIR TRAINING HELD MARCH 20, 2012
Hearing panel chairs are largely responsible for the conduct of Professional Standards hearings.   As a result, AAR conducts Chair training each year.  During this year’s PS Chair Training information was delivered by Carole Ridley, Professional Standards Administrator and Michelle Lind, AAR’s General Counsel. Included in the presentation were 2012 PS Chair Pat Leach, Ed Hume, 2012 PS Co-Chair, and PS Chair members Ron Roberts and Marge Lindsay. The agenda for the training consisted of: a discussion on hearing procedures, a case study, a survey review, and a quiz. Marge Lindsay’s presentation covered pre-hearing meeting issues, followed by Ron Roberts’ discussion on testimony and evidence issues. Ed Hume wrapped up the discussion segment with executive session issues. In addition to a well attended program, members had an opportunity to learn from other PS chairs, discuss common, and not so common, hearing issues. Attendees left the training with additional skills to help them preside over hearings that serve the members and public fairly.
Of the 105 PS members for 2012, 24 members will serve as chairs, they are:
Jim Amdahl, Martha Appel, Janine Brown, Mary Frances Coleman, Frank Dickens, D. Deems Dickinson, Jane Dutra, Holly Eslinger, Duane Fouts, Mary Lee Greason, Larry Hibler, Ed Hume, Pat Leach, Marge Lindsay, Jim Marian, Carol Pinciaro, Bob Quackenbush, Nancy Rea, Ron Roberts, Dan Santa Maria, Becky Taylor, Mike Warren, Bill Thorne, Bill Whetten.

2011 PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS STATISTICS
AAR continues to track statistics on a quarterly basis.  AAR utilizes these statistics to identify trends in the marketplace and issues warranting additional information and education.  To review the statistics for 2011, go to:  http://www.aaronline.com/professional-standards/2011-fourth-quarter-stats.pdf
Moving into 2012, we have restructured the format for logging statistics to better define the numbers for each local association grouped by region. The new format for the 2012 1st Quarter Statistics will be posted on the AAR website in early April. 

GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE TIPS
Calculating 180 days with respect to arbitration requests 
The Grievance Committee must determine whether a request for arbitration was filed within one hundred eighty (180) days after the closing of the transaction, if any, or within one hundred eighty (180) days after the facts constituting the arbitrable matter could have been known in the exercise of reasonable diligence, whichever is later.  This calculation can be done consistent with how the Courts calculate time periods and how time periods are calculated pursuant to AAR’s contracts:  i.e., if the close of escrow is on Monday, May 1st   ̶   day one would be on Tuesday, May 2nd.

HEARING PANEL TIPS
Listen and Take Notes
During the hearing a party or witness may blurt out testimony unrelated to any detail provided by the parties, in writing or as supporting documents that may change the case. If during the hearing a party reveals something in their testimony that might concern an Article not charged, or you hear the actions of a REALTOR® not named as a respondent, and you believe they should be added to the complaint – call for an executive session and discuss your concerns with the entire Hearing Panel.

HEARING CHAIR PANEL TIPS
Thank you for attending the March 20, 2012 Chair Training!
Sharing your thoughts and insight is greatly appreciated!

MEDIATOR TIPS
Considerations when reducing the mediation conference to a Resolution Agreement:

  • Has a party accepted responsibility for an action?
  • What have the parties agreed on regarding the imposition of educational, monetary, or other actions?
  • When is the action to take place?
  • Where is the action to take place or be delivered?
  • Is there an open case file to reference as withdrawn?

DROPBOX
Many of AAR’s committees will start to use Dropbox for meeting handouts. Read the following links to get more familiar with what Dropbox is and how to use and install it on your computer/tablet.
How to Install Dropbox:
http://www.slideshare.net/missy2sweet4u/dropbox-tutorial-11596809
REALTOR’S® Use of Dropbox:
http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DSUpNe_5J2KU%26fb_source%3Dmessage&h=8AQE63Kn1
Dropbox Blog:
http://blog.dropbox.com/   


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