A conversation with NAR Board member Pat Paulson
On November 13, 2020 the NAR Board of Directors approved changes to the Code of Ethics that apply to discriminatory speech and conduct by REALTORS®. The changes, which took effect immediately, apply to all REALTOR® activities, not just those that are related to their real estate work.
Pat Paulson, who is appointed by MAR to the NAR Board of Directors and is a member of Minnesota’s Professional Standards Committee, provides additional information about the changes and why he voted in favor of them.
Why were these changes made and why are they important?
NAR decided to act in response to a significant increase in discriminatory speech complaints that have been made against REALTORS® across the country, including in Minnesota, this year.
Most of the articles in the Code of Ethics are very specific to REALTORS®’ real estate activity but these changes apply to all REALTORS®’ activities because of their potential impact.
The changes are important because they help ensure that NAR and its REALTOR® members can meet their fair housing goals.
What was the process that NAR went through to make these changes?
The changes went through a rigorous process where they were thoroughly vetted prior to advancing to the NAR Board of Directors for a vote.
They were first considered by NAR’s Interpretations and Procedures Advisory Board which recommended the revisions to NAR’s Professional Standards Committee. The Committee approved the changes on October 5, 2020 and advanced them to the NAR Board of Directors for a vote on November 13, 2020. The NAR Board of Directors spent about two hours discussing these changes with each change subject to considerable debate. Debate only ended when the question was called for a vote.
It was an organized, comprehensive process and all of the measures passed with a sizable majority of the NAR Board voting in favor.
What are the main reasons for these changes?
- There’s been a significant rise in discriminatory speech complaints against REALTORS® this year
- Discriminatory, hate speech can lead to the following:
- Denial of service
- Discouragement of buying in certain areas
This runs counter to NAR’s fair housing goals and Code of Ethics Preamble which states the survival of our civilization depends on widely allocated ownership. This is especially important in Minnesota as we have large racial disparity gaps in homeownership.
- The Code of Ethics holds REALTORS® to a higher standard than the general public and real estate agents who are not REALTOR® members, and in the aspirational Preamble to the Code of Ethics, REALTORS® pledge to observe this spirit in all of their activities.
How enforceable are these changes?
- I am confident of the process. I have been a member of the Minnesota Professional Standards Committee for several years and these panels are comprised of highly competent REALTORS® who take their job seriously, do their research and ask thoughtful questions.
- Although there is an element of subjectivity in all ethics decisions, the Code of Ethics guidelines with additional interpretation assist the process and provide clear definitions of discriminatory hate speech and harassment.
NAR is providing free, monthly online training sessions to help you understand and enforce the Code of Ethics changes. For more information and to register, click here.