NAR Board of Directors Approves Proposal Banning Hate Speech by Realtor Members
John Jordan | November 23, 2020
CHICAGO—Chief officials with the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors and the New York State Association of Realtors hailed the recent vote by the Board of Directors of the National Association of Realtors to strengthen the Code of Ethics and ban harassing or hate speech by its members.
On Nov. 13, the Board of Directors of the National Association of Realtors voted in favor of a motion presented by NAR’s Professional Standards Committee making it a violation for Realtors to use harassing or hate speech toward any of the protected classes under Article 10 of NAR’s Code of Ethics.
Those include race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity. The Professional Standards Committee recommendations came as NAR works to reaffirm its commitment to fair housing and position its members to lead America’s real estate industry in the fight against discrimination and inequality.
“I applaud NAR’s Board of Directors and our Professional Standards Committee for their efforts to raise the bar on the professionalism and private speech of America’s 1.4 million Realtors,” said NAR President Vince Malta, broker at Malta & Co., Inc., of San Francisco. “Combatting and overcoming bigotry and injustice starts with each of us. Realtors today took tangible steps to ensure we are held to the highest possible standard while providing a mechanism of enforcement for those who violate our new policies.”
Local, state and national Realtor associations received various complaints about discriminatory speech posted online by Realtors earlier this year, particularly on social media. In subsequent months, NAR’s Professional Standards Committee and Interpretations Procedures Advisory Board met to consider the Code of Ethics’ applicability to discriminatory speech and conduct beyond a Realtor’s real estate duties.
Following months of meetings and deliberations, NAR’s Advisory Board recently recommended that its Code of Ethics apply to every action a Realtor takes, whether personal or professional.
Any complaint alleging a violation of Article 10 as illustrated by Standard of Practice 10-5 can now be brought to a hearing panel at a local Realtor association, which will be asked to assess the circumstances of each individual case.
The new Standard of Practice under Article 10 now reads:
“Standard of Practice 10-5
REALTORS® must not use harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
HGAR Chief Executive Officer Richard Haggerty praised the NAR Board’s action, saying, “Bravo for raising the bar for Realtor conduct when it comes to fair housing and recognizing that words, as well as deeds, matter. Bravo for standing up to the plate and taking action on such an important issue when it would be so easy and safe to say, let’s not rock the boat—it’s up to others to police this issue. Bravo for leading the fight against discrimination and inequality.”
Haggerty, who spent 28 years as the professional standards administrator for the association prior to his appointment as CEO eight years ago, noted that any issues involving the new regulation will be treated no different than enforcement of other Articles of the Code and will be the subject of due process and a hearings panel if necessary.
“It’s too easy to post hate filled rants denigrating other people on social media with no accountability. As NAR puts it, it’s not OK to be a Realtor by day and a keyboard bigot by night,” Haggerty said. “I applaud NAR leadership for creating accountability and for not taking the easy path, but rather the right path for our Realtor members and the communities they serve.”
Editor’s Note: For Haggerty’s full opinion on the NAR action, see his Gateway Perspectives column.
NYSAR President Jennifer Stevenson also expressed her support for the changes included in Article 10-5 of the Realtor Code of Ethics, stating that the NAR Board made a “bold statement that hate speech and related actions at any time are now considered a violation of public trust and subject to disciplinary action under the Code of Ethics and may be a determination of membership and reporting to the Department of State.”
She added in a videotaped message, “Realtor membership is a privilege not a right. It is wholly appropriate that membership should be based upon a member’s words and actions no matter where they occur.”
Overall, although the proposal seeks to extend enforcement of the Code beyond its current limits of real estate transactions and real estate-related activities, this added reach will not increase a Realtor or Realtor-Principal’s liability under the law, NAR officials stated.
Moving forward, NAR’s Professional Standards Committee will continue working to develop case interpretations to assist members and professional standards enforcement volunteers in understanding the Code’s applicability.
The NAR Professional Standards Committee met on Oct. 5 to consider recommendations from its Interpretations and Procedures Advisory Board on the Code of Ethics’ applicability to discriminatory speech and conduct. The committee approved the Advisory Board’s recommendations, and six of them were presented to and approved by the NAR Board of Directors at its Nov. 13 meeting. The changes will be effective immediately. Training schedules and materials will be available in the coming weeks.