ACHIEVING DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION TOGETHER
Throughout the course of your career, you will likely work with buyers and sellers of many different backgrounds. As a REALTOR® sworn to uphold a strict Code of Ethics, you must treat all clients equally, regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The REALTOR® commitment to diversity and equality is perhaps the strongest in real estate, even going a step farther than the federal Fair Housing Act, which does not include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes against housing discrimination (https://www.nar.realtor/diversity#statement) NCCAR stands by this statement.
2021 NEW ETHICS REQUIREMENTS;
NAR’s Board of Directors strengthened REALTORS®’ commitment to upholding fair housing ideals, approving a series of recommendations from NAR’s Professional Standards Committee that extend the application of Article 10 of the Code of Ethics to discriminatory speech and conduct outside of members’ real estate practices. All of these changes are now in effect. Article 10 prohibits REALTORS® from discriminating on the basis of race, color,religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identityin the provision of professional services and in employment practices. · The Board approved a new Standard of Practice under the Article, 10-5, that states, “REALTORS® must not use harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs” against members of those protected classes. · The Board also approved a change to professional standards policy, expanding the Code of Ethics’ applicability to all of a REALTOR®’s activities, and added guidance to the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual to help professional standards hearing panels apply the new standard. · Finally, Directors approved a revision to the NAR Bylaws, expanding the definition of “public trust” to include all discrimination against the protected classes under Article 10 along with all fraud. Associations are required to share with the state real estate licensing authority final ethics decisions holding REALTORS® in violation of the Code of Ethics in instances involving real estate-related activities and transactions where there is reason to believe the public trust may have been violated.
Why: During the social unrest throughout the nation in late spring and summer of 2020, NAR received an unprecedented number of complaints about REALTORS® posting discriminatory speech and conduct online, especially on social media. Local and state associations experienced a similar influx of these complaints.
Changes to theCode of Ethics’ applicabilityto a REALTOR®’s activities
At present, Policy Statement 29 in the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual limits the applicability of the Code to real estate-related activities and transactions involving REALTORS®. As such, members can engage in conduct and speech that is discriminatory and abhorrent, but unless it can be tied to a real estate-related activity or transaction, the Code of Ethics, specifically Article 10, does not apply. The Board of Directors approved a revised policy that expands applicability to all of a REALTOR®’s activities.
While the Code’s applicability has expanded, most Articles and Standards of Practice remain specific to real estate transactions and other real estate-related activities.
A new Standard of Practice under Article 10prohibiting discriminatory speech and conduct REALTORS® must not use harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. This proposed Standard of Practice directly flows from the requirement to not deny equal professional services or be parties to a plan to discriminate. Specifically, bias against protected classes revealed through the public posting of hate speech could result in REALTORS® not taking clients from certain protected classes or not treating them equally, which would lead to violations of the Fair Housing Act due to overt discrimination or disparate impact.
Revisions to thedefinition of “Public Trust”
The Board of Directors approved expansion of the definition of “public trust” to include all discrimination against the protected classes under Article 10 of the Code of Ethics and all fraud.At present, the definition of “public trust” includes demonstrated misappropriation of client or customer funds or property, willful discrimination, or fraud resulting in substantial economic harm. This recommendation expands the definition to include all discrimination against the protected classes under Article 10, and all fraud. As a result, associations are now required to share with the state real estate licensing authority final ethics decisions holding REALTORS® in violation of the Code of Ethics in instances involving real estate-related activities and transactions where there is reason to believe the public trust, as expanded, may have been violated.
Other questions and answers:
ANSWER: The First Amendment provides that neither the United States Congress nor any state may abridge the freedom of speech of American citizens. With some exceptions, the First Amendment does not prohibit a private organization from restricting the speech of its members, employees, or users. NAR is a private association that is supported by dues from members, is not exercising any governmental function, and has no subpoena power or other powers generally available to state agencies. As such, the First Amendment does not preclude NAR from imposing this ethical duty as a condition of membership.
QUESTION: I should be able to say whatever I want on my personal social media profile. It doesn’t impact my ability to do my job. Why is what I say there now subject to the Code? This is going too far.
ANSWER: The NAR Board of Directors discussed that a REALTOR®’s speech and conduct reflect on the REALTOR® organization whether said publicly on a business social media profile, or privately on a personal one. According to the Preamble of the Code of Ethics, REALTORS® should be guided by the spirit of the Golden Rule of treating others as one would like to be treated. When a REALTOR® pledges to abide by the Code of Ethics, the highest principles and ethics of REALTORS® must followed in all their activities, and cannot be abandoned in a profession dedicated to protecting the best interests of consumers. Put simply, when one REALTOR® engages in discriminatory speech and conduct, those actions demonstrate to consumers that they represent the actions of REALTORS® collectively. The REALTOR® brand is built on ethics and integrity. Discriminatory speech and conduct to the contrary depletes the strength of that brand. It is incumbent upon our organization to set the bar high, and communicate those elevated standards, to protect the REALTOR® brand and ensure its strength endures for years to come.
Additionally, this proposed change does not mean that the Code of Ethics will apply in all portions of a REALTOR®’s personal life as many of the Code’s provisions are specifically tied to real estate and real estate transactions.
NAR links to more information:
CODE OF ETHICS TRAININGS BELOW: