After receiving numerous complaints about members’ comments on social media, the National Association of Realtors’ Board of Directors passed a new policy that makes it an ethics violation for members to use hate or harassing speech outside of work.
The National Association of Realtors last week passed a new policy that expands its code of ethics to cover members’ conduct outside of their real estate duties.
The new personal conduct policy makes it an ethics violation for members to use hate and harassing speech in public toward certain protected classes, including race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
Prior to this regulation, NAR’s code of ethics only applied to a Realtor’s conduct during real estate-related activities.
“The sentiment that guided the committee’s recommendation is the philosophy that Realtors cannot engage in discriminatory hate speech outside of work while also claiming that such speech doesn’t impact his or her ability to live up to their fair-housing obligations,” said Kate Lawton, NAR’s Vice President of Member Experience.
The new policy comes following some Realtors being accused of inappropriate online comments. “Numerous Realtor associations received complaints about discriminatory speech posted online by Realtors earlier this year, particularly on social media,” Lawton said.
This issue of discrimination is particularly sensitive for NAR. Last year, a Newsday investigation revealed undercover video footage of several Realtors discriminating against minority homebuyers, in violation of the association’s policies. NAR was “deeply troubled” by the Newsday report, and has since spearheaded initiatives to ensure fair and equitable housing practices.
“NAR continues our work to rectify mistakes of the past and to position our members to lead this nation’s fight for more inclusive neighborhoods and more equitable housing policy and access,” Lawton said. “NAR believes we must continue to use our powerful voice to champion efforts that encourage diversity, fight racial bias, and build more inclusive communities.”
Lawton notes that the new policy allows people to file complaints against Realtors and does not ask local associations to seek out statements by members. When a complaint is filed, it is adjudicated by a local panel, who would hear evidence from the complainant and the accused Realtor.
“Hearing panels have the ability to use a wide variety of sanctions when they find a Realtor in violation of the code, from education, to fines, [to] more serious sanctions, such as suspension or termination of Realtor association membership,” Lawton said. “Each situation is considered individually. Discipline instituted for violations of the code of ethics does not impact the individual’s licensure.”
The new policy went into effect immediately. While not all members were in agreement on the issue, NAR plans to move forward in a unified fashion, hearing out all members.
“We have engaged in continued dialogue with members who hold opinions both in support of and in opposition to the motion,” Lawton said. “Friday’s vote and our ongoing conversations with Realtors will allow us to learn from our members on these and the number of other important issues we as face an association.”