Code of Ethics Case Interpretations

This ongoing series explores the NAR Code of Ethics through various case interpretations. Please read through the following case and try to decide if there was any Code of Ethics violations. Then click the box at the bottom to find out the answer. (These cases have been provided by the National Association of REALTORS®.)


Case #1-9: Ex​clusive Listing During Term of Open Listing

During a Board of REALTORS® luncheon, REALTOR® A described to those at the table an old house in a commercial area which was open listed with him and invited the others to cooperate with him in selling the property. REALTORS® X and Y said they also had the property open listed but had found very little interest in it. REALTOR® B made no comment, but feeling he could find a buyer for it, went to the owner and discussed the advantages of an exclusive listing. The owner was persuaded and signed an exclusive listing agreement with REALTOR® B, telling him at the time that he had listed the property on an “open” basis for 30 more days with REALTORS® A, X, and Y. REALTOR® B’s comment was, “Just don’t renew those open listings when they expire.”

A few days later, REALTOR® A brought the owner a signed offer to purchase the property at the asking price. The owner told REALTOR® A that he now had the property exclusively listed with REALTOR® B, and asked him to submit the offer through REALTOR® B. Before REALTOR® A could contact REALTOR® B, REALTOR® B had taken another offer to purchase the property at the asking price to the owner. Confronted with two identical offers, the owner found both REALTOR® A and REALTOR® B expected full commissions for performance under their respective existing listing agreements. The owner filed an ethics complaint with the Board of REALTORS® alleging violations of Article 1 of the Code of Ethics because of the difficult position he had been placed in by REALTOR® A and REALTOR® B. The owner alleged neither of them had warned him that he might be liable for payment of more than one commission.

What do you think the Hearing Panel decided? Click here to find out.

In reviewing the actions of REALTOR® A, the Hearing Panel found that he was not at fault; that he had performed as requested under his listing agreement. On the other hand, it was the conclusion of the Hearing Panel that REALTOR® B had violated Article 1 by failing to advise the owner of his potential commission obligation to the other listing brokers when the client told him other listing agreements were in force.

The Hearing Panel pointed out that because of REALTOR® B’s omission his client, through no fault of his own, may have incurred legal liability to pay two commissions; that REALTOR® B should have advised the owner of his potential liability for multiple commissions; and that by not doing so REALTOR® B had failed to protect his client’s interests as required by Article 1.