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Professional Standards

Ethics Complaints, Ombudsman Service, Arbitration Requests and Other Related Information

REALTORS® are different from non-member licensees in that they voluntarily subscribe to a strict Code of Ethics. If someone believes that a REALTOR® has violated one or more Articles of the Code of Ethics, they are free to file an ethics complaint alleging a violation(s) through any local board of REALTORS® where the REALTOR® holds membership, or participates in a REALTOR®-owned/operated MLS. In addition, REALTORS® agree as a condition of membership to arbitrate contractual disputes and specific non-contractual disputes as provided for in Article 17 of the NAR Code of Ethics.

Below are several resources to help you understand what an ethics complaint and arbitration request entails, and the general process you can expect when filing an ethics complaint or arbitration request with a local association of REALTORS®.


Although the majority of real estate transactions close without incident, there is a possibility that a problem or dispute could occur. When that happens, it is usually successfully resolved by the parties through normal communication and negotiation. In the past, when negotiations failed, parties took their case to court. Today, they are taking their disputes to mediation.

Ombudsman Services

The definition of Ombudsman services for REALTORS® - The Ombudsman Program in its simplest definition is informal telephone mediation.  In some cases it can address and solve minor complaints from the public.  It can also solve inter-REALTOR® conflicts before they become serious problems.  Like a mediator, an ombudsman helps parties find solutions, but does not impose solutions. 

Next Steps 

In 2020, Pen-Mar entered into a cooperative agreement with the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS® to oversee and administer all Professional Standards, Ethics, and Grievance related services. This agreement for services extends to all Pen-Mar members, regardless of their primary license being in PA or MD. Dozens of other local associations belong to this regional cooperative and have found value in a consistent administration practice, as well as a dedicated specialized staff member who is trained to help guide association members (and non-members) through these difficult situations. If you are interested in an ombudsman, mediation, filing an ethics complaint, or simply want to know your options, please contact Lisa Aaron. Lisa is the cooperative's Professional Standards Manager and can be reached by calling (800)555-3390 or emailing