About the Ombudsman
Why does GAOR offer an ombudsman?
Some complaints received by the Association do not expressly allege violations of specific Articles of the Code of Ethics. Furthermore, some complaints are actually transactional, technical, or procedural questions readily responded to.
It is the belief of the National Association’s Professional Standards Committee that many ethics complaints might be averted with enhanced communications and initial problem-solving capacity at the local level. The ombudsman procedures are intended to provide that capacity.
Under the program established by the National Association of REALTORS®, the ombudsman’s role is primarily one of communication and conciliation, not adjudication. Ombudsmen do not determine whether ethics violations have occurred or who is entitled to what amount of money, rather they anticipate, identify, and resolve misunderstandings and disagreements before matters ripen into disputes and possible charges of unethical conduct.
Right to Decline Ombudsman Services
Persons filing complaints, or inquiring about the process for filing ethics complaints, will be advised that ombudsman services are available to attempt to informally resolve their complaint. Such persons will also be advised that they may decline ombudsman services and can have their complaint referred to ethics mediation (if available), or considered at a formal ethics hearing.
Resolution of Complaints
If a matter complained of is resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all parties through the efforts of an ombudsman, the formal ethics complaint brought initially (if any) will continue to be processed until withdrawn by the complainant.
Failure to Comply With Agreed Upon Resolution
Failure or refusal of a member to comply with the terms of a mutually agreed on resolution shall entitle the complaining party to resubmit the original complaint or, where a formal complaint in the appropriate form had not been filed, to file an ethics complaint. The time the matter was originally brought to the board or association’s attention will be considered the filing date for purposes of determining whether an ethics complaint is timely filed.
Referrals to the Grievance Committee or to State Regulatory Bodies
Ombudsmen cannot refer concerns they have regarding the conduct of any party utilizing their services to the Grievance Committee, to the state real estate licensing authority, or to any other regulatory body. The prohibition is intended to ensure impartiality and avoid the possible appearance of bias. Ombudsman are, however, authorized to refer concerns that the public trust may have been violated to the Grievance Committee.
Confidentiality of Ombudsman Process
The allegations, discussions and decisions made in ombudsman proceedings are confidential and shall not be reported or published by the board, any member of a tribunal, or any party under any circumstances except those established in the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual of the National Association as from time to time amended.
Contact GAOR if you are interested in working with the ombudsman. For more information from NAR, check out these sources: