2021 starts with awareness of a new obligation in the REALTOR® Code of Ethics that transcends just real estate transactions.
Article 10 of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, which has been in existence since 2014, prohibits REALTORS® from denying equal professional services to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
A new Standard of Practice has been added to the article that is not limited to actions while providing real estate services or real estate transactions. Since REALTORS® cannot shed at will their high standard of providing equal services to all, the new Standards applies to REALTORS®’ actions anytime, by any communications method.
Standard of Practice 10-5 "Prohibits REALTORS® from using harassing speech, hate speech, epithets or slurs attacking a person because of his/her race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity."
Don’t confuse this prohibition with what might be labeled as making an offensive remark. For a complaint to be filed and considered by a hearing panel, it must allege both of the following:
- The REALTOR’S® act involved one of 4 specific types of speech:
- harassing speech
- hate speech
- an epithet
- a slur
- The speech was aimed at a person/persons due to their race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender.
The new Standard of Practice is in direct alliance with NAR’s mission of "empowering REALTORS® as they preserve, protect and advance the right to real property for all." It directly flows from the requirement to not deny equal professional services or be parties to a plan to discriminate. Specifically, bias against a protected class revealed through the public posting of hate speech could result in REALTORS® not accepting clients from certain protected classes or not treating them equally, which would lead to violations of the Fair Housing Act due to overt discrimination.
In the coming weeks, NAR will provide Associations with definitions of the four types of speech to help Grievance Committees and Hearing Panels perform their objectives.
In addition to this new Standard of Practice, NAR has created a bias assessment that each of you should take to determine if you demonstrate unintentional bias in real estate transactions. The assessment, Fairhaven, takes about an hour and puts you into real-life real estate situations that require you to act or respond to persons in protected classes. See how you do. You might be surprised. This assessment is required of new members joining the Association.