Ethics & the Law

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Here's help with distinguishing between Realtor Ethics and Florida real estate license law.  Larry Lowenthal is an expert witness who is retained for lawsuits wherein real estate brokers are charged with violations of Florida law and the Realtor Code of Ethics, malpractice, failure to disclose, negligence, dishonesty, and deceptive conduct.  Depending upon the facts and the law, Larry works for plaintiffs and defendants, and testifies at depositions and trials.  Most cases settle before trial.

Need an expert on the Realtor Code of Ethics? 
Florida Statute 475?  FS 61J2?

To help distinguish between the duties of Real Estate Brokers and Realtors, it is important to understand that, while all Realtors are licensees, not all licensees are Realtors.  Realtors are those licensees who have optionally elected to join the National Association of Realtors (NAR) through membership in a local Board of Realtors.

As a condition of their membership, Realtors in every state swear to support the NAR'S "Code of Ethics". For the purpose you are visiting today, "Realtor Ethics" is  defined by me  as reflecting strictly those behaviors and conduct addressed in the Code,  which is published annually by the NAR.   To read the Code in a new window, click HERE

By virtue of this, Realtors in throughout the United States are subject to an additional layer of guidelines that serve to supplement those laid down by the licensing statute in their home states. However, it is my understanding that courts in several states will look to the Code as the standard of conduct expected of all licensees -- both Realtors and unaffiliated.

There are two NAR-mandated functions at the local Board level.

  • The role of the Grievance Committee is somewhat like that of a Grand Jury, which filters both complaints against agents and brokers, and arbitration requests.  Occasionally Larry personally prosecuted complaints at a hearing on behalf of either the Grievance Committee itself or of a Complainant who is unable to attend or is not entirely competent to proceed.  This additional function is permitted by NAR policy.

  • As for the Professional Standards Committee, its role is to establish hearings where sworn testimony is heard and evidence is presented for examination and review by a panel of three Realtors. Upon conclusion of a hearing, the panelists vote on the charges and we either find for dismissal of the charges or agreement with at least one of them.  If the latter, the panel immediately determines appropriate one or more disciplines from a list established by the National Association of Realtors. 

  • Professional Standards panels also conduct arbitration hearings to determine which broker is procuring cause in a closed transaction and thus due the contested real estate commission.

Realtor ethics are unique.

They are distinct from business and attorney ethics, although there is some overlap.   For example, a Realtor can cheat a vendor and not breach any of the Code's ethical standards.  But instead, if the victim is a customer or another Realtor, then the Realtor may be guilty of violating the Code of Ethics.   

Many people are surprised to find out that a similar distinction applies to serious crimes such as armed robbery and dealing illegal drugs.  These activities are not addressed by any article of the Code.

Realtors swear to abide by the Code, and typically learn its principles during their initial indoctrination.  Most Realtors proudly adhere to the Code of Ethics throughout their entire careers in the business, but some occasionally fail to live up to its standards because of ignorance or laziness or greed or mental lapses resulting in another party's financial loss or physical  injury.

But ignorance, laziness, greed, and mental lapses do not apply solely to Realtors in troubled real estate transactions. The principal parties -- buyers, sellers, landlords, & tenants --  are equally susceptible to these human frailties.  So when damages are claimed and a suit is filed, it's often critical to determine if the Realtor's conduct conformed to ethical standards...or strayed from them.

Florida Statutes

Licensed as a Broker in Florida, Larry helps attorneys with Florida Statutes 475 and 61J2 and their practical interpretation.  In a typical lawsuit, a licensee's conduct is measured against both Florida law and the Code of Ethics.  It is possible that a course of conduct may be legal but unethical, while another may be illegal but not unethical. 
  (To read FS 475 in a new window, click HERE )

That is why you are here, now, reading this.  Larry Lowenthal will help you find the answer to questions such as

"Was the Realtor's conduct ethical?"  "Was it legal?"  "Was it malpractice?"
"Did it meet the standard of care?"  "Who earned the commission?"


Telephone (352) 372-2135      E-mail:    
5000 SW 25th Boulevard, #3103, Gainesville, Florida 32608

(Larry, formerly of Broward now surrounded by Gators!)
Working with Defendants, Plaintiffs, and their Attorneys since 2003.

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