Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual: 2023 Changes

The Code of Ethics has been around for over 100 years. It’s a dynamic document, ever evolving and adapting with the real estate industry. Changes generally go into effect at the beginning of the year. Here’s what’s new in 2023.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Dear Shannon: I’m our local association Ombudsman and recently attended Florida Realtors® Professional Standards Training. I learned that the Code of Ethics has been around for over 100 years, and that the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual isn’t a static document and changes along with the industry.

We were also told that changes, if any, usually take place at the beginning of the calendar year. That led me to wonder: Since Jan. 1, 2023, is here, are there any changes this year to the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual? – Tell Me What’s New

Dear Tell Me What’s New: Ombudsman is a crucial role, and I’m sure your local association appreciates all the work you do. I’m thrilled you had a chance to attend one of Florida Realtors Professional Standards Trainings.

You are correct. The Code of Ethics has been around for over 100 years. It was adopted in 1913 as a commitment to professionalism. Yes, it is also a living document that evolves with the real estate industry. I dare say it has proven to be dynamic, nimble and responsive to changing times.

And yes, you are also correct that, generally, if changes are made to the Code of Ethics and Arbitration manual, they go into effect on Jan. 1 of each year. To make transitions easier, all changes will be shaded in grey in the manual, so you’ll know what’s new. In 2023, the changes include:

Replace “handicap” with “disability”

The term “handicap” is replaced with “disability” in Article 10, the Standards of Practice, and in all corresponding references to the protected classes within the National Association of Realtors®’ (NAR) policy and resources. The rationale for this change? The term “handicap” is widely considered to be an antiquated, if not offensive, term.

“But doesn’t the Fair Housing Act still use the term ‘handicap’?,” you may be asking. Yes. Federal Fair Housing Act text still contains the word “handicap,” likely because it’s difficult to amend legislation. However, federal agencies have been using “disability” instead of “handicap” in regulations, policies and documents for a while now.

A change of terms may also lead you to wonder if the meaning changes in any way. The short answer: It does not. The change updates Article 10 with preferred terminology but keeps the substance and intent of the article intact, with no substantive difference in the definition of the terms. This is just an example of how the Code adapts to changing times.

Standard of Practice 3-9 replaced “the listing broker” with “the seller”

On Jan. 1, Standard of Practice 3-9 replaced “the listing broker” with “the seller.” The rationale for this change is simple: It clarifies and reinforces the existing ethical obligation for the listing broker to follow the instructions of the owner or seller when establishing terms related to the marketing and sale of the property.

Standard of Practice 3-9 change: REALTORS® shall not provide access to listed property on terms other than those established by the owner or the listing broker the seller.

Six new case interpretations relating to Standard of Practice 10-5: 

  1. Case Interpretation #10-6, Use of Hate Speech and Slurs on the Basis of Race
  2. Case Interpretation # 10-7, Use of Harassing Speech on the Basis of Political Affiliation
  3. Case Interpretation # 10-8, Use of Harassing Speech against Protestors
  4. Case Interpretation # 10-9, Use of Speech or Ideas included in Religious Doctrine
  5. Case Interpretation # 10-10, Use of Speech or Ideas included in Religious Doctrine
  6. Case Interpretation #10-11, Display of Symbols

Attention Professional Standards Administrators: Remove Board President from Ethics complaint dissemination process

Also changed on Jan. 1: Section 21, Ethics Hearing, Subsection (b) and Section 23, Action of the Board of Directors, Subsection (j) of the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual to remove the Board President from the process of disseminating the ethics complaint, response and the appeal decision.

The rationale for this change: It strengthens the grievance process by removing any appearance of impropriety due to the ability of a Board President to review a complaint and response at the beginning of the grievance process while, at the same time, also serving on the board that hears an appeal or ratifies a hearing panel’s decision.

The Preamble of the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual states, in relevant part; Realtors® continuously strive to become and remain informed on issues affecting real estate and, as knowledgeable professionals, they willingly share the fruit of their experience and study with others. What you do matters. Happy New Year!

Shannon Allen is an attorney and Florida Realtors Director of Local Association Services

Note: Advice deemed accurate on date of publication
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