On Friday, November 13, 2020, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Board of Directors voted to approve changes to the Code of Ethics and the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual, some of which became effective immediately.
The changes, outlined in detail below, update the Code of Ethics’ applicability to discriminatory speech and conduct. Under the new Code of Ethics, REALTORS® are prohibited from using harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity in any context.
In recent years, NAR, and other associations around the country, including Virginia, have been contacted regarding REALTORS® posting discriminatory comments on social media. Prior to this change, the Code of Ethics only applied to real estate-related activities and transactions involving REALTORS®. In response to these reports, the NAR Professional Standards Committee considered amending the Code of Ethics and recommended three changes:
- Changes to the Code of Ethics’ applicability to a REALTOR®’s activities. Policy statement 29 is updated to expand applicability of the Code of Ethics to all of a REALTOR®’s activities. While the Code’s applicability is expanded, a majority of the Articles of the Code of Ethics specifically reference real estate transactions and other real estate-related activities. This change is effective immediately.
- New Article 10 Standard of Practice. Article 10, the “fair housing” article, is updated to add a new Standard of Practice 10-5 that reads “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 new Standard of Practice flows directly from the requirement to not deny equal professional services or be parties to a plan to discriminate. Essentially, it is nearly impossible for an individual to make discriminatory comments and then turn around and provide equal services to the individuals discriminated against. This change is effective immediately.
- Revisions to the definition of “Public Trust.” The definition of “public trust” is updated to cover discrimination against the protected classes under the Code of Ethics and remove the requirement that fraud result in substantial economic harm. Previously, the definition of public trust required willful discrimination. This is important because Associations are required to share with the VREB final ethics decisions holding REALTORS® in violation of the Code of Ethics in instances where there is reason to believe the public trust may have been violated. These changes will expand the instances in which the Association must report final ethics findings to the VREB. This change is effective January 1, 2021.
The new obligations under the Code of Ethics do not apply to behavior that occurred before they became effective. This means that if something was said or posted prior to November 13, 2020, it would not be a violation of the Code of Ethics, and REALTORS® do not have an obligation to go back through all of their social media posts to remove anything that may be a violation under the new Code of Ethics.
In order to fully understand the nature of the updates and the rationale, we encourage you to do the following: