IAR Professional Standards Program Snapshot

Program Begin Date: October 15, 2020
Number of REALTORS® under authority of Statewide Program: 6,169
Number of Iowa Local Boards Part of Program: 15
Number of Grievance Committee Members: 15
Number of Professional Standards Committee Members: 70

Why was the program adopted?

The size of many local boards made it hard to find impartial hearing panels without conflicts. Having a pool of members from across the State review complaints and conduct hearings increases impartiality and fairness. We believed that many complaints were not being filed due to these concerns. Enforcing the Code of Ethics is perhaps the most important thing we do as REALTORS® and this program was a way to greatly improve this profession and the interests of the public. 

Are more complaints being filed?

While we do not have perfect data about complaint activity from the past, the data we did collect from many local boards suggests that the filing of complaints has increased. We believe that complaint filing will continue to increase as this program becomes more and more familiar to our members and to the public. 

I am thinking about filing a complaint. What do I need to know?

If you file a complaint and there is merit to your complaint and it meets the basic filing criteria, the case will be set for a hearing. At the hearing, there will be five volunteer REALTORS® who will serve as the decision makers in the case. This hearing will take place over Zoom. The individual who files the complaint will generally need to be present at the hearing to present their case.

How do you file an Ethics Complaint?

We have made filing an ethics complaint easy. All you need to do is submit your complaint on our online form here: https://www.iowarealtors.com/iarethicscomplaint. This form allows you to submit up to 10 supporting attachments as well.

How long will it take for a decision to be made after I file my complaint?

Generally, a case will be handled and completed in 3-6 months. However, there are times where it may take longer than this. Don’t worry – we will reach out when we have an update on your case!

Can you (IAR) terminate this Realtor®'s license?

No. As a trade association, we have no authority over the licenses of our members. The only agency who has such authority is the Iowa Real Estate Commission. If you’d like to file a complaint with the real estate commission, that is your right! However, their process and our process are separate.

I want to file a complaint, but I don’t want the REALTOR® to know I did. I don’t want to show up at the hearing, I just want you to take my complaint and handle it. Is that okay?

Generally, the answer to that question is no. A complainant has the burden to demonstrate an ethical violation occurred. When complained of, a Respondent (the party the complaint is filed against) has due process rights. Those include the rights to state their case, to cross examine the complainant and their witnesses, and to rebut any evidence brought about by the complainant. It is for these reasons that a complainant must generally appear at the hearing to present their case.

In limited circumstances, the grievance committee could name themselves as complainant when a written complaint is filed. However, without the cooperation of the complainant at the hearing, it is generally difficult to prove a violation of the Code. If a complainant files a complaint and does not show up for the hearing, they risk a dismissal of the case.

Can you hear Ethics cases against any real estate agent? 

No. There are many real estate agents who are not a REALTOR®. We only have jurisdiction over members of the Iowa Association of REALTORS®. You can verify whether the person who you are complaining about is a member of our association here: https://www.iowarealtors.com/members/member-directory

Will I always be notified if a complaint has been filed against me?

No. When a complaint is received, the Grievance Committee reviews the complaint and determines whether a series of baseline criteria are met. The Grievance Committee only reviews the complaint and attachments to determine whether there is a “possible” violation of the Code of Ethics. If the Grievance Committee determines the complaint does not contain possible unethical conduct, it will dismiss the complaint without ever notifying the Respondent that a complaint was filed against them. This is subject to a couple exceptions.

I just found out that a complaint was filed against me and that it has been set for a hearing – does this mean the association believes I violated the Code of Ethics? What should I do?

The Grievance Committee will forward any complaint for a hearing if it satisfactorily alleges any “possible” violations of the Code of Ethics and other baseline criteria are met. However – a REALTOR® can only be found in violation of the Code of Ethics after the complainant proves, at a full due process hearing, that there is clear, strong, and convincing evidence to support a violation of the Code of Ethics. 
A REALTOR® complained of will have full opportunity to respond to the allegations made against them at a due process hearing, and will have a right to counsel. If you are named in an Ethics Complaint that has been referred for a hearing – it is very important that you critically review everything sent by the Association regarding your complaint as it will contain important deadlines. 

Does my Supervising Broker automatically become a respondent if a complaint is filed against me?

No. The nature of that relationship, in and of itself, does not make a supervising REALTOR® a party to the case. However, a Respondent’s Principal REALTOR® will be notified of the complaint, will be allowed to participate in the hearing, and will receive a copy of the hearing panel’s decision. 

What can happen to me if I am found in violation of the Code of Ethics?

A hearing panel will submit a written decision to the parties, which will contain a recommended sanction to the Board of Directors or panel of Directors. Possible sanctions range from letters of warning, letters of reprimand, and ordering of rehabilitative classes, all the way to fines up to $15,000 and suspension or even expulsion of membership. The Code of Ethics embraces progressive discipline where first-time violators are generally given more lenient sanctions than one who has multiple past violations that demonstrates a pattern of unethical conduct. Of course, the unique facts of every case will ultimately determine the appropriate sanction.  

Where are Ethics hearings held? Will I have to travel for my hearing?

All Ethics Hearings are held over Zoom. The parties will meet with the Professional Standards Administrator, prior to their hearing, to make sure they are fully comfortable with the Zoom features. Holding the hearings in this way works well and parties are afforded every opportunity to be heard and to cross examine witnesses.