DISPUTE RESOLUTION

Peer-to-Peer, Ombudsman, Mediation, Arbitration, and Ethics Complaints

All  REALTOR® members of the Pacific Southwest Association of REALTORS® hold themselves to a higher standard of professional conduct. 

The Professional Standards program helps our members be better REALTORS®. PSAR's Professional Standards program provides current, up-to-date information about the National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics, to which all Realtor members are bound.  PSAR also settles disputes between Realtors and between Realtors and their clients through mediation and arbitration. 

PSAR adheres to the policies and procedures outlined in the California Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual provided by the California Association of Realtors. The Manual is drafted to comply with the National Association of Realtors and California state law.

REALTORS® are different from non-member licensees in that they voluntarily subscribe to a strict Code of Ethics. If you believe that a REALTOR® has violated one or more Articles of the Code of Ethics, you can file an ethics complaint alleging a violation(s) through the local association of REALTORS® where the REALTOR® holds membership. You may search for a member's local affiliation here​, or contact PSAR staff at prostands@psar.org or 619-579-0333 and we can help identify the correct association. ​

PSAR is responsible for enforcing the REALTOR® Code of Ethics.  This brochure helps explains dispute resolution procedures followed and what you can expect when an ethics complaint is filed.  This brochure also describes alternatives to consider before filing an ethics complaint.   â€‹Before You File an Ethics Complaint​.

Peer-to-Peer Ethics Infoline (REALTOR members):

C.A.R. now offers Realtors a free ethics infoline where they can be assigned a volunteer member who is trained in the Code of Ethics to assist with non-legal questions:

- Whether their own actions might violate the Code of Ethics

- Whether the actions of another Realtor member might violate the Code of Ethics

The Peer-to-Peer Infoline volunteers are NOT attornies and cannot give legal advice or answer legal questions.  

Ombudsman Program (Consumers & REALTOR members):

Available to Consumers or C.A.R. members, occasionally find themselves in a dispute with a REALTOR®.  The C.A.R. Ombudsmen can help you understand if a possible violation has occurred and recommend ways to resolve the situation before it becomes a more formal process.  The Ombudsmen are volunteers that serve as a neutral and independent voice to answer consumer or REALTOR® questions, improve communication between parties, and suggest possible ways to resolve issues before it becomes a formal dispute.  â€‹

What is it?

The Ombudsman Program is a FREE voluntary way of discovering if a possible ethics or rules violation has occurred with other members of clients.  Consumer and REALTOR® Ombudsman Hotline Video 

How Does it Work?

Ombudsmen do not advocate for any party or attempt to decide who is a fault.  Instead, they will assist all parties in understanding the issues, and recommend other options for resolving the situation before beginning a formal process.  Request Ombudsman Assistance Now

What happens if the Parties can't agree?

If the parties can't agree to the Ombudsman's recommendation, they can proceed with a Complaint, Mediation, filing a complaint with the California Department of Real Estate, or the court system.

Mediation
Arbitration
Filing an Ethics Complaint
Mediation & Arbitration Fees

File for Mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary process and can be initiated to resolve any type of dispute involving any amount of money, and at any time.   A Mediation can only be scheduled if both parties agree.  If any party to the dispute does not agree to mediation, the parties are free to pursue other avenues for resolution.

What is Mediation:

Mediation is a dispute resolution process whereby a mediator works with both parties to facilitate a mutually acceptable resolution of your dispute.  In comparison to Arbitration, mediation is an effective means of dispute resolution not requiring a judicial or third party determination.  It provides a forum and atmosphere that is usually less formal and the parties are more directly involved in the decision-making process to resolve the dispute.

Why Mediate?

By resolving disputes in mediation, parties determine for themselves what is important and what the outcome of a situation will be. While the benefits of mediation vary somewhat depending upon the nature of the dispute, and model of mediation applied, the following are some of the benefits typically associated with mediation:

 - In hearing and being heard in the mediation forum, parties gain an understanding of the other's point of view and enhance the opportunity to be heard and understand themselves.

  - Parties are empowered to decide for themselves how they would like to resolve a situation, coming to an agreement that both parties will be satisfied with.  This self-determination aspect of mediation often corresponds to a higher aspiration of how individuals and businesses generally want to conduct their lives and do business.

Types of Disputes:

The purpose of mediation is to assist in resolving REALTOR® vs. REALTOR®, and Clients vs. REALTOR® disputes.  The Association reserves the right to refuse certain mediations.

Request Mediation & Fees:

PSAR’s rates for mediation services are competitive, and the current fee structure is included as Exhibit A.  To begin a mediation proceeding, download and complete this application, and return back to PSAR with the appropriate filing fee, for review.

If your application for mediation is accepted and fees collected from both parties, the mediation will be conducted locally at PSAR’s administration office either in El Cajon or Chula Vista, CA.  If parties agree, a virtual Zoom meeting may also be hosted.

Download Mediation Request Packet

 

When a monetary dispute arises between REALTORS® members and is brought before PSAR,  mediation is mandatory prior to an arbitration request.    In an arbitration hearing, the decision handed down by the Arbitration Panel is final, and binding by law.  The failure of a party to abide by the arbitration decision can be enforced by the Court.

PSAR’s special mediation program will help its members settle disputes as quickly as possible. PSAR’s mediators are professional, highly trained, and experienced. Every mediator is a licensed real estate professional that understands all aspects of real estate disputes.

Most cases can be successfully mediated if all parties are willing to make a good faith effort to resolve the dispute. Mediation should be considered by all litigants and attorneys who have an interest in prompt, cost-efficient settlement.

ASSOCIATION'S RIGHT TO DECLINE ARBITRATION:
Occasionally, a dispute submitted for arbitration may meet the basic filing requirements but the substance of the dispute will be too legally complex and/or involve a significant amount of money in dispute. In these situations, the association has the right to decline arbitration and release the parties from their obligation to arbitrate at the association.

All California associations must adhere to the policies and procedures set forth in the California Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual provided by the California Association of REALTORS®. The Manual is drafted to be in compliance with the National Association of REALTORS® and California state law.

CAR - ARBITRATION RULES

The Fine Print: Article 17

Article 17 of the National Association of Realtor Code of Ethics mandates that all PSAR members mediate arbitrable disputes first.

In the event of contractual disputes or specific non-contractual disputes as defined in Standard of Practice 17-4 between REALTORS® (principals) associated with different firms, arising out of their relationship as REALTORS®, the REALTORS® shall mediate the dispute if the Board requires its members to mediate. If the dispute is not resolved through mediation, or if mediation is not required, REALTORS® shall submit the dispute to arbitration in accordance with the policies of their Board rather than litigate the matter.

In the event clients of REALTORS® wish to mediate or arbitrate contractual disputes arising out of real estate transactions, REALTORS® shall mediate or arbitrate those disputes in accordance with the policies of the Board, provided the clients agree to be bound by any resulting agreement or award.

The obligation to participate in mediation or arbitration contemplated by this Article includes the obligation of REALTORS® (principals) to cause their firms to mediate or arbitrate and be bound by any resulting agreement or award. (Amended 1/12) [listen]

Standard of Practice 17-1

The filing of litigation and refusal to withdraw from it by REALTORS® in an arbitrable matter constitutes a refusal to arbitrate. (Adopted 2/86)

Standard of Practice 17-2

Article 17 does not require REALTORS® to mediate in those circumstances when all parties to the dispute advise the Board in writing that they choose not to mediate through the Board's facilities. The fact that all parties decline to participate in mediation does not relieve REALTORS® of the duty to arbitrate.

Article 17 does not require REALTORS® to arbitrate in those circumstances when all parties to the dispute advise the Board in writing that they choose not to arbitrate before the Board. (Amended 1/12)

Standard of Practice 17-3

REALTORS®, when acting solely as principals in a real estate transaction, are not obligated to arbitrate disputes with other REALTORS® absent a specific written agreement to the contrary. (Adopted 1/96)

Standard of Practice 17-4

Specific non-contractual disputes that are subject to arbitration pursuant to Article 17 are:

  1. Where a listing broker has compensated a cooperating broker and another cooperating broker subsequently claims to be the procuring cause of the sale or lease. In such cases the complainant may name the first cooperating broker as respondent and arbitration may proceed without the listing broker being named as a respondent. When arbitration occurs between two (or more) cooperating brokers and where the listing broker is not a party, the amount in dispute and the amount of any potential resulting award is limited to the amount paid to the respondent by the listing broker and any amount credited or paid to a party to the transaction at the direction of the respondent. Alternatively, if the complaint is brought against the listing broker, the listing broker may name the first cooperating broker as a third-party respondent. In either instance the decision of the hearing panel as to procuring cause shall be conclusive with respect to all current or subsequent claims of the parties for compensation arising out of the underlying cooperative transaction. (Adopted 1/97, Amended 1/07)
     
  2. Where a buyer or tenant representative is compensated by the seller or landlord, and not by the listing broker, and the listing broker, as a result, reduces the commission owed by the seller or landlord and, subsequent to such actions, another cooperating broker claims to be the procuring cause of sale or lease. In such cases the complainant may name the first cooperating broker as respondent and arbitration may proceed without the listing broker being named as a respondent. When arbitration occurs between two (or more) cooperating brokers and where the listing broker is not a party, the amount in dispute and the amount of any potential resulting award is limited to the amount paid to the respondent by the seller or landlord and any amount credited or paid to a party to the transaction at the direction of the respondent. Alternatively, if the complaint is brought against the listing broker, the listing broker may name the first cooperating broker as a third-party respondent. In either instance the decision of the hearing panel as to procuring cause shall be conclusive with respect to all current or subsequent claims of the parties for compensation arising out of the underlying cooperative transaction. (Adopted 1/97, Amended 1/07)
     
  3. Where a buyer or tenant representative is compensated by the buyer or tenant and, as a result, the listing broker reduces the commission owed by the seller or landlord and, subsequent to such actions, another cooperating broker claims to be the procuring cause of sale or lease. In such cases the complainant may name the first cooperating broker as respondent and arbitration may proceed without the listing broker being named as a respondent. Alternatively, if the complaint is brought against the listing broker, the listing broker may name the first cooperating broker as a third-party respondent. In either instance the decision of the hearing panel as to procuring cause shall be conclusive with respect to all current or subsequent claims of the parties for compensation arising out of the underlying cooperative transaction. (Adopted 1/97)
     
  4. Where two or more listing brokers claim entitlement to compensation pursuant to open listings with a seller or landlord who agrees to participate in arbitration (or who requests arbitration) and who agrees to be bound by the decision. In cases where one of the listing brokers has been compensated by the seller or landlord, the other listing broker, as complainant, may name the first listing broker as respondent and arbitration may proceed between the brokers. (Adopted 1/97)
     
  5. Where a buyer or tenant representative is compensated by the seller or landlord, and not by the listing broker, and the listing broker, as a result, reduces the commission owed by the seller or landlord and, subsequent to such actions, claims to be the procuring cause of sale or lease. In such cases arbitration shall be between the listing broker and the buyer or tenant representative and the amount in dispute is limited to the amount of the reduction of commission to which the listing broker agreed. (Adopted 1/05)

Standard of Practice 17-5

The obligation to arbitrate established in Article 17 includes disputes between REALTORS® (principals) in different states in instances where, absent an established inter–association arbitration agreement, the REALTOR® (principal) requesting arbitration agrees to submit to the jurisdiction of, travel to, participate in, and be bound by any resulting award rendered in arbitration conducted by the respondent(s) REALTOR®’s association, in instances where the respondent(s) REALTOR®’s association determines that an arbitrable issue exists. (Adopted 1/07)

Boards and Association of REALTORS® are responsible for enforcing the REALTOR® Code of Ethics.  The Code of Ethics imposes duties above and in addition to those imposed by law or regulation which apply only to real estate professionals who choose to become a REALTORS®.  Many difficulties between real estate professionals (whether REALTOR® or not) result from misunderstanding or miscommunication.

If you have a problem with a real estate professional, you may want to speak with him or her, or with a principal broker of the firm.  Open, constructive discussion often resolves questions, or differences, eliminating the need for further action.  If the real estate professional you are dealing with it not a REALTOR®, your only recourse may be the Department of Real Estate, or the Courts.

For help, the C.A.R. Ombudsmen are volunteers that serve as a neutral and independent voice to answer consumer or REALTOR® questions, improve communication between parties, and suggest possible ways to resolve issues.  â€‹Consumer and REALTOR® Ombudsman Hotline.

Filing an  Ethical Complaint

Complaints can be filed against a member and/or Broker of PSAR by the public, or fellow Realtor.  An ethics complaint should be filed when you want to charge a Realtor member with a Code of Ethics and CRMLS Rules violations.   If filing an Ethics Complaint against a Realtor, the Complaint must be filed with their Primary Realtor Association.

Requirements:

Any person, member or non-member, may file an ethics complaint against a member and/or broker alleging a violation of the Code of Ethics, and CRMLS Rules violations. A Complaint must be filed within 180 days from the close of escrow or date of discovery.  You must submit a typed-written summary detailing the events that took place with the time frames and any evidence you wish to submit.  Your summary must support the Code of Ethics, and CRMLS violations you are charging against the agent and or/broker.

Disciplinary Action:

What will happen to the Agent if they are found in violation?  The penalties range from a letter of warning in their Association file or an education requirement.  

Procedure:

If you want to file a complaint, first read the informative PDF form "Before you File an Ethics Complaint"

  • Prepare a narrative description of the circumstances and facts surrounding the complaint, being as specific as possible.  Attach copies of all relevant documents such as listing and sales contracts, letters, etc. labeling these as Exhibit 1, etc.
  • Complete the Ethics Complaint Form (D1)
  • Email your complaint, narrative, and supporting documents to ProStands@psar.org.
  • The Professional Standards Department may be reached at 619-579-0333 or ProStands@psar.org.

Here is a list of forms and documents.

For more background information on Professional Standards from the California Association of REALTORS®  follow this link.

For more background information on Professional Standards from the National Association of REALTORS®  follow this link.

If a PSAR REALTOR® member has been named as a Respondent in a Mediation or Arbitration, as a member benefit all mediation fees will be waived for the Respondent member EXCEPT if the REALTOR® member acted as a Principal in the transaction.

If a PSAR REALTOR® is filing a claim and is involved as an agent in the subject Mediation/Arbitration, as a member benefit, the filing fee shall be only $250 for the Claimant and no additional fees will be assessed for mediation services provided to the Claimant.

To see details about fees click HERE