Professional Standards Procedures

real_estate_law_imageThe Greater Regional Alliance of REALTORS® (GRAR) is responsible for enforcing the REALTOR Code of Ethics in the greater Grand Rapids area. The Code of Ethics imposes duties above and in addition to those imposed by law or regulation which apply only to REALTOR and Affiliate members the Association.

Many difficulties involving REALTORS result from misunderstanding, miscommunication, or lack of adequate communication. If you have a problem with a REALTOR, you may want to speak with him/her or with a supervising broker in the firm. Open, constructive discussion often resolves questions or differences, eliminating the need for further action. For more information on filing a formal complaint, please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions below.

If your complaint involves someone who is not a REALTOR member of the Greater Regional Alliance of REALTORS®, you are encouraged to contact the State Licensing Department.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I call or email GRAR to register my complaint?

We are happy to answer any procedural questions you might have, but we are unable to register a formal complaint over the phone. An email statement is insufficient to initiate the proceedings — please read further to acquaint yourself with the formal process and procedures.

2. Is there anything I should do before I file a formal complaint?

Before filing a formal complaint against a REALTOR member, you are strongly encouraged to contact that person’s supervising broker to discuss your concerns. The supervising broker may be unaware that a problem exists and may be able to assist you in resolving the dispute. If you do not know the name of your REALTOR’s supervising broker, please call 616-940-8200 to request that information, or you can obtain the name of the supervising broker by looking at the agent information page on our roster.

If after taking these steps you still feel you want to file a formal complaint, please follow the appropriate procedures outlined at this web page.

3. Does GRAR provide legal advice?

GRAR does not have an attorney on staff and is not qualified or authorized to provide legal advice. You should contact your own legal counsel if you need legal assistance.

4. What if my complaint is concerning the earnest money (or good faith) deposit?

In most cases, GRAR does not have the authority to determine who will receive the deposit if the transaction is not consummated. You should refer to your purchase agreement for how the disposition of the deposit will be handled. If you are still not satisfied, we would suggest that you consider mediation and/or seek legal advice.

5. Are there different types of complaints? How do I know which one to file?

There are two types of complaints that can be considered by GRAR.

The first type is referred to as an Ethics Complaint. This alleges that the REALTOR, by virtue of his/her conduct, has violated the duties imposed upon him/her in the REALTOR Code of Ethics. Participation in the Ethics complaint process is mandatory for all REALTOR members of GRAR.

The second type is referred to as a Business Dispute or Arbitration Complaint. This type of complaint alleges that you are entitled to some kind of compensation or monetary damages. If you elect to file an Arbitration Complaint, it must include a detailed explanation of the dollar amount claimed. The Arbitration Complaint process
generally deals with actual damages. A request based solely on punitive damages is typically not considered. Participation in the Arbitration complaint process with customers and clients is voluntary for REALTOR members of GRAR.

When filing your complaint, you should specify whether you are filing an Ethics Complaint, an Arbitration Complaint, or both.

Remember: Ethics Complaint = Agent’s Conduct/Performance; Arbitration Complaint = Claim for Compensation or Damages.

6. How do I file a complaint?

For both types of complaints (ethics and business dispute/arbitration), print and complete the Statement of Complaint form (pdf), and attach to that form a narrative description of the circumstances surrounding your complaint. If you have a problem accessing this document, you can request a copy of the form from the Association’s Professional Standards Administrator via e-mail or by phone (616-940-8200).

In the event you are filing a Business Dispute/Arbitration Complaint, please print and complete the Request & Agreement to Arbitrate Form (pdf) and submit this with the Statement of Complaint form and narrative referenced in the previous paragraph.

If you are unable to type your complaint, please be sure to print as clearly as possible.

Return the completed forms and requested document(s) to:
Greater Regional Alliance of REALTORS®
Professional Standards Committee
660 Kenmoor SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546
or fax to (616) 940-8216

7. Am I charged any kind of fee to register my complaint?

There is no filing fee for clients or customers of REALTORS to file an Ethics or Business Dispute/Arbitration complaint. (Note: There is a fee for REALTOR to REALTOR Arbitration complaints; no fee for REALTOR to REALTOR Ethics complaints.)

8. Is there a period of time in which I must file the complaint?

Yes. In most cases, the timeframe in which a complaint will be considered is within 180 days after the transaction occurred, or within 180 days after the facts constituting the matter complained of could have been known in the exercise of reasonable diligence, whichever is later. This timeframe may be extended in certain circumstances at the discretion of the Professional Standards Review Panel. For additional clarification, please e-mail the Professional Standards Administrator.

9. What happens after I file my complaint?

The formal complaint is submitted to the Review Board of the Professional Standards Committee for consideration at its next regularly scheduled meeting. The Review Board convenes once each month, and is comprised of 4 elected members of the Professional Standards Committee.

The Review Board will send a copy of the complaint to the party complained of (the ‘Respondent’) and require the Respondent to furnish it with a written response to the allegations within 20 days. Upon receipt of that written response, the Review Board shall conduct a preliminary review and evaluation of both the written complaint and written response, and shall determine whether to dismiss the complaint due to lack of sufficient worthiness to further consider the matter, or it shall appoint a 6-member panel of the Professional Standards Committee to hold a formal hearing in the matter. The Review Board’s decision shall be reduced to writing and sent via U.S. mail to both the complainant and the respondent.

10. What happens at a formal hearing?

At least 3 weeks prior to the scheduled he
aring date, the Complainant and Respondent (parties) shall receive a copy of all of the documents considered by the Review Board, together with a notice of the date and time the hearing has been scheduled, and an outline of the procedures to be followed at the hearing. Hearings are held at the offices of the Greater Regional Alliance of REALTORS®.

Each of the parties shall be afforded the opportunity to meet briefly with the Chairperson of the hearing panel (on the day of the hearing but prior to its commencement) for an overview of the process and a tour of the hearing room.

At the scheduled time, the parties shall be invited into the hearing room. The Chairperson of the hearing panel will declare the hearing in session, and shall follow a very specific set of procedures (provided in advance to both parties). A copy of these procedures can be obtained at this link. Both parties will be given the opportunity to present their side of the story, ask questions of the other party, and have witnesses appear on their behalf. Both parties should also be prepared to respond to questions from the members of the Hearing Panel. Once all testimony has been received, both parties will be given the opportunity to provide a closing statement (briefly summarizing the evidence and the reason why he/she should prevail). The hearing is concluded, and the parties are excused from the hearing room.

The panel remains in the room after the parties are excused to go into executive session where the facts of the case are deliberated and a decision is reached. This decision is reduced to writing and is sent to each of the parties via U.S. mail within 10 days after the hearing.

11. Can I be represented by legal counsel at the hearing?

Yes, you may be represented by legal counsel (at your own expense), but it is not required. If you decide to have representation, it is required that you notify GRAR at least 10 days prior to the hearing date of the name and address of your legal counsel. The other party will be notified that you are being represented and will be given the opportunity, if desired, to reconsider whether or not to arrange for legal representation.

12. What if I am unable or unwilling to attend the hearing?

In order for the complaint to be considered, due process requires that the Respondent be afforded the right to face his/her accuser at a formal hearing. If you are unable to attend a hearing (in person, or via electronic means in unique or extreme circumstances as determined by the Hearing Panel), the hearing cannot be held and no action will be taken against the Respondent. Each party may be granted one postponement to a more convenient time upon request.

13. Can I invite witnesses to testify on my behalf at the hearing?

Yes, however, you are responsible for making the arrangements for witnesses to appear on the day of the hearing. Written testimony from witnesses will likely not be admitted if the person who authored the testimony is not available for cross-examination since this would be considered hearsay evidence and would not afford the other party due process. Witnesses will be invited into the hearing room at the point where their testimony is to be taken and will be excused from the hearing after completion of their testimony and cross-examination.

14. Can I submit additional information about my complaint prior to the hearing?

All documents relevant to the issue should be submitted to GRAR at least 10 days prior to the hearing. This provides adequate time for GRAR to forward copies of these documents to the other party and to the panel members. If documents are submitted after that time or at the hearing, the hearing panel will vote on whether or not to admit the evidence, though it would be unlikely if the other party objects since it was not submitted within the required timeframe.

15. If the Respondent is found guilty, what kind of punishment will be rendered?

It is up to the Hearing Panel to determine what punishment (discipline) is rendered against the Respondent. The panel will weigh the severity of the violation(s), and may also consider progressive (stronger) discipline if the member has had any previous violations. The discipline can be one or more of the following:

  • Letter of censure
  • Mandatory education with a prescribed period of time
  • Monetary fine
  • Probation of membership
  • Suspension of membership
  • Termination of membership
  • Other discipline as deemed appropriate by the Hearing Panel

16. Can I invite a friend or family member to go with me for moral support?

Not if he/she is not a party to the complaint. Attendance at the hearing is limited to the Complainant(s), the Respondent(s) and his/her Broker, the parties’ respective counsel (if desired), witnesses (during their testimony), Hearing Panel members, and Association staff or legal counsel, as deemed necessary. All other person or persons, and witnesses prior to their testimony, will be asked to wait in the lobby area outside of the hearing room where they will be kept comfortable with refreshments, free wi-fi access, and cable news.

17. What if I have filed civil or criminal action against the REALTOR?

You will still need to file the complaint within the 180-day timeframe previously referenced to place it on record with GRAR if you wish to have it considered by the Professional Standards Committee. It is the practice of GRAR to refrain from considering complaints until such time as the legal proceedings have been concluded. In these cases, the 180-day timeframe shall be suspended beginning with the date the complaint was filed, and shall resume when the legal proceedings have ended.

Additional Questions?

Please contact the Professional Standards Administrator by e-mail or at 616-940-8200.

Other Resources: