One of the benefits of working with a Realtor is that he or she has agreed to be held to a code of ethics.

Ed Fuller

Ed Fuller

Many of the provisions are for the protection of the public. Realtors pledge, among other things, to protect and promote their clients’ interests; to treat all parties honestly; to avoid exaggeration, misrepresentation or concealment of pertinent facts relating to the property or transaction; and, whenever possible, to put all agreements pertaining to a real estate transaction in writing and, when signed or initialed, provide clients with copies.

Complaints must be filed with the Association of Realtors within six months of the close of escrow or from when the transgression was discoverable, which ever is later. The association has a staff specialist who will assist a consumer in filing the complaint.

If a grievance panel determines there is any possibility of a violation, a panel hearing will be convened at which the complainant will be required to appear. If found in violation, penalties range from a reprimand to a $15,000 fine and expulsion from the association.

A less confrontational and time-consuming alternative is the association’s ombudsman program. ombudsman procedures are intended to provide enhanced communications and initial problem-solving that may produce solutions quickly and with the least investment of time and energy.

The ombudsman acts as a mediator to help correct issues and reconcile parties prior to, or instead of, the formal Professional Standards process. Ombudsmen are seasoned veterans of the real estate industry with years of experience in Professional Standards and knowledge of the code of ethics.

Some issues can be handled just by discussing them with the agent’s broker or manager. If this is ineffective, the assistance of an ombudsman may resolve the matter. Lastly, the formal Professional Standards process is available to make sure our agents are acting according to our code of ethics.

Click here for the full code of ethics.

Ed Fuller is a real estate broker with San Roque Realty Inc. and president of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. Contact him at or 805.687.1551. The opinions expressed are his own.