(Warning: Offensive, strong language included in this video.) Matt Difanis, NAR Pro Standards chair, explains reasons for proposed Code of Ethics changes.
The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) is scheduled to vote Friday, Nov. 13, on proposed changes to the Code of Ethics, following an “unprecedented” wave of complaints about its members’ social media conduct during this tumultuous year.
Under current rules, “members can engage in conduct and speech that is discriminatory and abhorrent” without penalty unless tied directly to real estate work. The changes will expand what’s considered discriminatory actions not just from real estate activities but will also include members’ public statements—most notably online comments and postings.
NAR’s ethics committee proposed stiffer and broader enforcement because “speech and conduct reflect on the REALTOR® organization whether said publicly on a business social media profile, or privately on a personal one.”
Legacy of Discriminatory Practices
Home buying/selling and lending have a long legacy of fighting discrimination within its ranks—sadly, some of that tied to REALTORS® with the government’s blessing. Various industry statistics reveal that there’s still an unfair playing field for certain house hunters.
“We quite literally drew the color lines,” said Matt Difanis, chair of NAR’s Professional Standards committee, on an NAR video (see accompanying video). “Our fingerprints as REALTORS® are all over the redlining maps which, 52 years after fair housing became the law of the land, still scar our landscape.”
Difanis, whose committee wrote the proposed rules, knows it isn’t a widely popular change and he welcomes “uncomfortable discussions.”
In the video he recounts samples from “the mountain of hate speech” by REALTORS®, including one member itching to use his $1,500 rifle on a [unprintable racial epithet].
REALTORS® to the Rescue
Modern-day hate isn’t a good mix with REALTORS®’ unsavory history, Difanis says. So, small cures are underway.
For example, Lisa Dunn, a REALTOR® from Rancho Santa Margarita, recently helped start the “Deliberately Fair Housing” groupon Facebook to educate real estate pros about avoiding discriminatory practices.
“What some people have been posting on social media has been disgusting and sometimes even threatening,” she said.
“It’s going to take positive action to remedy decades’ worth of inequality, and we must continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with millions of Americans in affirming that Black lives matter,” said NAR President Vince Malta, in a story by Andrea Brambila for Inman News. “Some say, ‘stay out of this issue, NARJust stay in your lane.’ Well, this is our lane. This is the time for REALTORS® to step up and lead.”
That push includes another proposal that would make violations of this expanded definition of discriminatory talk, if proven, something reportable to real estate regulators—as fraudulent actions are today.
“The First Amendment does not preclude NAR from imposing this ethical duty as a condition of membership,” the association says.