How to File a Complaint Against a Realtor

Four Methods:Meeting with the Realtor’s BrokerInforming Consumer Protection AgenciesFiling a Complaint with a Realtor’s AssociationReporting to a Governing Licensing Board

You have a variety of options for filing a complaint against a realtor. Before filing your complaint with any organization, you must compile information and any relevant documentation that supports your complaint. You will also need to prepare a factual description of the incident to include with your relevant documentation. A complaint can be filed with one or more different organizations.

Method 1
Meeting with the Realtor’s Broker

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    Consider whether misconduct has really occurred. Difficulties in the relationship with a realtor often stem from a breakdown in communication.[1] Re-establishing communication may clear up any misunderstandings.
    • However, if you feel that your realtor has deliberately lied or misled you about anything you consider material (e.g., the condition of a piece of property, the willingness of a seller or buyer, or the costs of services), then you should pursue a complaint.
    • Sometimes what strikes a seller as unprofessional conduct may seem minor to real estate professionals. Discuss your issue with an unbiased third party to gain another perspective.[2]
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    Schedule a meeting with the realtor’s managing broker. The broker is the party that owes you a fiduciary duty; the realtor is merely the broker’s agent. You should therefore set up a meeting and make your complaints known. The realtor may or may not be invited to attend.
    • Write out your complaints and all of the details that you remember. Take down the name of any witnesses, as well as their telephone numbers.
    • Practice explaining your complaint. You want to be precise and clear. Be firm but not angry.
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    Gather supporting documents. If you believe the broker violated the contract, then take out your copy of the contract and highlight the section you believe has been violated. Although the realtor’s manager has access to the contract, the meeting will go more smoothly if you bring as much supporting documentation as possible.
    • Other important documents include lease contracts, sales receipts, and communications between you and the realtor.
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    Meet with the broker. If you do not want the realtor to attend, ask for him or her not to be present.
    • If possible, you should willingly agree to have the realtor at the meeting. Problems can be resolved more quickly if the supervisor or manager has both sides of the story.
    • You can also gently correct any errors the realtor makes in describing his side of the story.
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    Request resolution. Apart from merely lodging a complaint against a realtor, you can ask the managing broker to resolve your problem. For example, if the realtor did not disclose a defect in the house, you could ask for an offsetting reduction in realtor fees.
    • Be open to settlement. Accepting less than you want does not mean that you cannot still file a complaint with your state’s licensing board.
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    Ask to see a supervisor. If you feel the meeting did not go well, ask if there is anyone else you can meet with. In large real estate offices, you probably will not meet with the president initially, so there should be someone else to talk to. Ask to move up the chain of command.[3]

Method 2
Informing Consumer Protection Agencies

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    Visit the Better Business Bureau. The BBB is the most famous consumer protection bureau. You can report online at their website.
    • Click on the name of your country and enter your zip code.
    • Click on "Get Consumer Help" at the top of the website, then select "File a Complaint" from the drop-down menu.
    • If you do not have access to the Internet, call the BBB headquarters at 1-703- 276-0100 to file a complaint over the telephone.
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    Fill out the online complaint form. The complaint will ask for basic information, including contact information (for you and the business) as well as details about your complaint.
    • You will answer preliminary questions, such as the category of complaint (vehicle, cell phone, or business product or service) and then whether you are a retired or active service member or a civilian employee of the Department of Defense.
    • You can search for the business by name and zip code. Then select the business from the list.
    • You will likely be redirected to a city or state BBB to actually file your complaint. At the website, you will be asked to state your problem as well as your desired outcome and settlement.
    • Do not include personal information, such as social security numbers.
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    Let the broker know. Even if you choose not to meet with the realtor’s managing supervisor or broker, you can still inform him of the complaint. The BBB will send the complaint to them within two weeks.
    • If you have met with the broker and did not receive the relief you wanted, then complaining to the BBB is the next logical step.

Method 3
Filing a Complaint with a Realtor’s Association

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    Confirm that the realtor is a member. Realtor’s associations, such as the National Association of Realtors, are voluntary. That is, realtors voluntarily agree to adhere to the organization’s Code of Ethics.
    • If you are unsure whether your realtor belongs to an association, review paperwork or business cards from your realtor to locate a seal or logo that represents any state or national association they may belong to.
    • You may also want to call the realtor's broker, office manager, or firm to determine if the realtor belongs to a specific realtor's association that you can file a complaint with.
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    Read the Code of Ethics. To file a complaint with the National Association of Realtors, you are required to pinpoint an ethics violation in your complaint.[4] Familiarize yourself with their ethics rules so that you can point to something specific.
    • Specific violations include a duty not to deliberately mislead you about market value, as well as a duty to submit offers and counteroffers as quickly as possible.[5]
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    File soon. There may be time limits. For example, the National Association of Realtors requires that you file a complaint within 180 days of knowing that the realtor has committed an unethical act.[6]
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    Secure a copy of the complaint form. You can download the complaint form in PDF or in Microsoft Word.
    • Attach supporting documentation as well as a signed and dated statement in which you explain the circumstances surrounding the alleged ethics violation.
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    Consider mediation. Some associations offer alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation. In mediation, the parties work under the guidance of a mediator toward a solution acceptable to both parties.[7]
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    Prepare for a hearing. Once the local Grievance Committee receives your complaint, they will determine whether you have alleged an actual violation of the ethics rules. If so, a hearing will be scheduled.
    • Gather your documentation and think about any witnesses you can call. You must present evidence that supports your contention. Mere accusation is insufficient.
    • If your complaint was rejected, you may appeal to the Board of Directors within 20 days by filling out the appropriate form.
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    Attend the hearing. The hearing will proceed like a trial. Parties may be represented by counsel and present evidence supporting their contentions.
    • The realtor is presumed innocent. You have the burden of showing by “clear, strong, and convincing evidence” that the realtor violated the Code of Ethics.[8]
    • Present your evidence in a crisp, clear, and coherent manner.

Method 4
Reporting to a Governing Licensing Board

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    Visit the website for your state’s governing board. Realtors are licensed by state. Most states maintain a website and include forms on the web to lodge a complaint.
    • Perform an internet search to locate your area's real estate licensing board. For example, if you live in California, use keywords such as "California real estate licensing" to locate the website for the Department of Real Estate in California.
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    Download a form. Most states require that you download a PDF and fill it out before mailing it back in.
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    Fill out the form carefully. Provide all information requested. Incomplete forms may not be processed or could detract from your credibility.
    • For increased legibility, type the form or, at the least, use black ink.[9]
    • Forms vary by state, but they typically require filling out your personal information (name and address) as well as the name, address, and business name of the realtor.
    • Forms also may ask whether a legal action has been started. If so, they will ask for the name of your attorney as well as the attorney’s contact information (address and phone number).[10]
    • You must sign the form under penalty of perjury. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, you may want to schedule a meeting with the realtor’s supervisor instead of lodging a formal complaint.
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    Explain your complaint. After selecting the category of complaint, you must inform the state agency of the factual grounds for the dispute. Some forms will provide a space for this information, but feel free to type this out on a separate piece of paper and attach it to your complaint.
    • Answer the questions “who, what, where, when, and how.” That is, describe who did what, where it happened, when it happened, and how it happened. Note any promises that were made and the actual language used.
    • Include the names of witnesses, as well as their contact information.
    • Describe events in chronological order for increased clarity.[11] You don’t want to confuse the state board.
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    Attach any documents in support. Provide a complete copy of receipts, cancelled checks, contracts, closing documents, title documents, and correspondence.[12]
    • Send only copies of supporting documentation, never the originals, and make sure that they are legible.
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    Mail the complaint. The address should be on the form.
    • Be sure to keep a copy of the entire complaint, including any attachments. You can refer to this copy to refresh your memory should someone contact you later about your dispute.
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    Assist the investigator. After a complaint is filed, the state board considers whether or not to open an investigation. If one is opened, the case is then handed to an investigator, who may want to interview you.[13]
    • Though procedure may vary by state, in the typical hearing the only two parties are the state and the realtor.[14] You are not a party to the proceedings, though you may be called as a witness.
    • If no action is taken, the state board will likely send you a letter to that effect.[15]

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Categories: Real Estate