The top 3 Code of Ethics complaints last year

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02/11/2016 | Author: Editorial Staff

Only REALTORS® can be named in complaints to the Texas Association of REALTORS® based on alleged Code of Ethics violations, but anyone—members of the public or other REALTORS®—can file a complaint. Here are the three most common articles cited in Code of Ethics complaints from 2015.

1. Article 12
Many Article 12 complaints deal with Texas REALTORS® who don’t disclose the name of their firm or professional status as REALTORS® on advertisements such as farming postcards, magazine ads, signs, and so forth.

2. Article 1
Often, Article 1 complaints deal with Texas REALTORS® who are not being honest or truthful.

3. Article 16
Article 16 complaints are frequently about Texas REALTORS® contacting someone who already has an exclusive representation agreement with another REALTOR®, often through farming postcards, or by not asking whether the person was already represented.

Learn more about what each of these articles entail, two other commonly cited articles in Code of Ethics complaints, and the top five TREC complaints last year in the January/February issue of Texas REALTOR® magazine.

Categories: Ethics
Tags: code of ethics, texas realtor magazine


Richard Ryon on 02/26/2016

I do not “tell everyone else they are wrong”, only agents that are wrong. Especially when they are spreading their wrong information to other agents on Realtor websites.
Like in your last post when you said that “If you receive an offer on an outdated form, you may either use it as written”. WRONG!  As YOU said “TREC mandates that we all use the most current form”. That you follow this with “but that does not invalidate the previous version of said form” makes no sense! WRONG AGAIN! If we MUST use a current form, that means we CANNOT use previous versions in setting up a new transaction. Your claim that this doesn’t make it “invalidate”  for us to use previous versions for new sales is nonsensical. You close sales using outdated forms? Sure YOU can. But the first time there is a dispute and an attorney catches your wrong choice of forms your you know what is grass! YOU just gave them a sledge to beat you over the head with. I will follow the rules, thank you.
I agree with you that all offers, counters, and I would add all legal documents and more must be presented to our clients as well as letting them know of any changes we have made to the original document. I certainly told my clients about and presented to them the offer on the outdated form. They appreciated my professionalism in catching the error and fully supported using the current form for their counter.
You seem to operate with an elevated level of concern that other agents are doing things incorrectly in your transactions simply because you are not there to supervise their activities. You seem to know too well what went on in meetings at which you were not present. True, we should be vigilant in spotting errors made by others. I noted the outdated, invalid form in the example I provided.
But, you just sound a touch paranoid. Easy to happen in this business. Why do I say this? Because you are so alarmed that someone simply wants a “clean” contract and make such a big deal of it. YOU can get in a fight over it with the other agent; I am going to review it with my clients, get it signed, and close the sale! Thankful that the other agent is detail oriented and appreciates as much as I do a clear, legible agreement that everyone can refer to.

Finally, to answer your question “Who am I” that I can say WRONG? How about a US Citizen with 1st amendment rights. What else do I need? You certainly aren’t shy about expressing your disagreements. Your the only one who can? WRONG!

Rick DeVoss on 02/26/2016

Richard—-  Who are you that you get to tell everyone else they are “wrong”...??

I do not agree with your comments and ideas, at all.  Most negotiations are not so major that you could not write in the new numbers (or terms) and not expect everyone to be able to read it.  If you write legibly, then the people at the title company will have no problem reading the new numbers.  ~If the change is more complicated, then simply attach an amendment, or refer to a separate page as an attachment.  (It doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to figure that out.)

By using the term “not allow” agents to re-write the contract, I meant you could simply not accept it.  There is nothing in our guidance from TREC or TAR that says an agent gets to “re-write” a contract just because they are compulsive about it looking “clean.”  ...If the seller counters the offer, then the buyer’s agent needs to accept it as it is, and have the buyer sign it.

There may be situations where it would be best for both parties to suggest that the completed contract be redrawn.  (but not on a regular basis)  ...If this is the case, then both agents have to explain what has happened to the buyer and the seller, and have them read the entire contract all over again.  —You should also refer to the original contract, and attach it for the title company’s file.

(If you don’t like this idea, please go talk to your title company’s attorney.  Then do it their way.)

Next topic:  If you receive an offer on an outdated form, you may either use it as written, or send it back to the buyer’s agent and suggest that they write their offer up on a current form.  ...This allows for a learning experience, instead of you acting like you are God, knowing how to write Their offer on new paperwork.

The offer is what it is.  A contract on an outdated form could be processed by all parties, and the house sold legally.  ~TREC mandates that we all use the most current form, but that does not invalidate the previous version of said form.  ...Sometimes there are major new issues addressed in a newer version of the contract form.  If one of them applies to the property in question, then you would be obliged to add an attachment or an amendment addressing the issue.  (This could be part of your counter, in a polite way.)

The issue I was addressing in my first post, was how wrong it is for the other agent to take an offer (or counter) and re-write it in her own words before submitting it to her client.  ~Thus the other party never knew what had been proposed by my party.

My point is simply:  the agent does not have the right to make the counter offer.  It has to come from one of the principles.  It is our job to pass the counter on to the principle, and then let them make their own counter.  (If they have questions, we can obviously provide answers or suggestions.)  ~It is not our place to write something up using our own terms, and then present it to a seller as if it came from the buyer.

Final thought:  No, it is not too onerous for me to review every line of a re-written contract, Richard.  ~That is exactly what I do every time I receive one!  —-But too many people just make the assumption that the wording has not been changed in the act of “cleaning it up.”


Richard Ryon on 02/25/2016

Sorry Rick, but you are wrong again. “Not Allow” agents to rewrite offers on a new form? Are you serious?
Why should we have a “clean”  written agreement? How about so everyone can READ THE TERMS! Having a legible written agreement that everyone can refer to works wonders when people’s memories of terms differ, which is often. Problem solved by referring everyone to the written agreement. But you have to be able TO READ IT for this to work.
I recently received an offer from another office that was written on an outdated form. I should be prohibited from countering using the correct form? You have your history of the negotiations by simply keeping the old copies. Duh. And if it is too onerous for you to review the entire offer or counteroffer for changed terms each and every time you shouldn’t be in this business.
I must admit that your “word for word” example is kinda funny, in a silly way. Although I don’t think you were trying to be silly. Just were.

Rick DeVoss on 02/24/2016

Diana, you have brought up another important issue.
Should an agent be allowed to re-write an offer just to get a “clean contract”...?

My opinion is: No!

First of all, it is Not the same thing as the original paperwork/offer.
Secondly, why does it need to be “clean”??  ~Why shouldn’t the paperwork show the progression of the negotiations between the parties?

This practice can be a very dangerous thing, and You as the accepting Agent are totally responsible for reading every single word of the new contract to make sure it is IDENTICAL to the original.  ~Is the time required worth it to have it be “clean”...??

And what about the time lost if you have to send it back to correct an error?

If you are considering accepting a re-written offer that is now “clean”, then you have to lay each page out on a table and compare every line to the line in the original offer.  And you know the buyer is just going to sign it without reading it when you give it to him, so You have to be sure that there have been No changes made!

Horror story:  a FSBO seller negotiated an offer with a buyer, and after coming to terms, the buyer went off and ‘typed’ the offer up so that they would have a “clean copy” to take to the title company.  The seller signed it when the buyer told her that no changes had been made.  ...Once the contract got to the title company, she discovered to her horror that it said the seller was paying all closing costs.  (This had not been agreed upon.)

This is why you should get an agent. —-But can You (as the agent)  guarantee that No changes were made to the “clean” copy, and be willing to bet your commission on it…?


Rick DeVoss on 02/24/2016

Diana—-  I’m with you on this topic!

According to all I have learned over the decades about TREC, TAR, Board, & MLS rules and procedures, we have no solid way to verify that an offer (or a counter offer) has been presented to the other agent’s client.

In today’s world of multiple offers (in our market), this has become an even bigger issue.  Agents say they have multiple offers.  ~How do we know that they do??  ~How do we know that they presented our offer, and not just the ones from their own office??  ~How do we know what the seller’s response was if we never get a call or just some dumb text??

First of all, I think it is time to address Common Courtesy:  If an agent goes to all the trouble to write up an offer of some 13 or 14 pages, get the buyer’s signatures, and sends it, along with earnest money & option fee checks, to the Listing Agent, then I think we deserve a written reply from either the Agent or the Seller.  ~This business of sending a text is unacceptable, and not returning phone calls is un-Professional.

Don’t we all want to be called Professionals?    ~Then we have to earn it…!

Bottom Line:  If it’s not a verbal offer, then you should not give a verbal response.

(In my opinion, modern technology allows us to use an email as a “written” response; but a ‘text’ is not the same thing.)

Why can’t TAR or somebody come up with a simple form that allows the seller (or the buyer) to signify that they got the offer at a certain time/date, and they are either accepting, not accepting, or countering the offer…?

There is no standard of responsible practice in this industry.  The Code of Ethics doesn’t address it.  Many “Brokers” are as guilty as the new Sales Agents.  I will not hold my breath for TREC to mandate such standard business practices.  But I will take the time to draw up the form—- if all of you out there will use it!

Diana Barnett on 02/24/2016

I would like to know a standard practice to know if your clients offer has been presented.  I have presented an offer by an agent to my seller, we countered with the proper strike thru and initials.  The agent rewrote the offer on a new contract with the exact same “mistakes” and original price and terms.  The only thing different was the closing date which was also a contingency.  I asked her why she did not use the original contract and she stated she wanted a clean copy.  Final result, buyer rescind their offer and when I emailed agent why I never got a return call.  Not sure if the counter was presented.
Other times I would make an offer on a property for a client and the agent or broker would text me that they turned down the offer…not countered.  Later to find out (small town) it was never presented.
I know we all have to deal with this time to time but I was hoping if there was a common successful way around verifying.

Richard Ryon on 02/22/2016

Rick, you do not have the right to unilaterally judge whether a listing agent “is to be trusted” and then act on that judgement by communicating directly with the sellers. Sending your client’s offer directly to the seller is clearly “going behind the listing agent’s back”.  Your claim that Para 21 Notices allows this is absurd. P21 is for “Notices”, not negotiations. You loose credibility making such a stupid claim. Why should I believe you when are willing to twist and turn the obvious meaning of this paragraph as well as oppose standard practices in order to justify your actions?
Your claim that this person’s status as a broker left you no choice but to contact the seller directly is specious. Did you forget about filing a complaint with your Board or TREC? Simply filling out a complaint form and presenting it to the other broker without submitting it works wonders in making sure rules are followed and takes little time. In some cases you might even find out that there is a legitimate reason for their actions that you were not aware of or that you misunderstood what transpired.
Even if the other agent is in the wrong, two wrongs don’t make a right. Sending offers directly to the sellers, bringing them into your dispute with the listing agent, is WRONG. No excuses.
If you do not like who the seller’s chose to represent them TOUGH! It is their choice, not yours. Honor their choice or move on.
Directly contact my clients and I too will tell my sellers that you are in violation. I will give them the benefit of my 40 years of experience that Buyer’s agents that openly attack my relationship with clients do not make good prospects for closing a sale.  And I will file a complaint against you too! There are enough problems to be solved to get to a closing without including a buyer’s agent that throws hand grenades.

Rick DeVoss on 02/19/2016

Good to hear from you, Lori.  ...But your comments are not in line with what actually transpired.  Let me be more specific:

> I did not violate any Code that says “Thou shall not go behind another agent’s back.”
...I merely sent the buyer’s amendment to the seller’s address, since the Listing Agent had put that address in Para. 21 for Notices to be sent to, and she had already proven that she could not be trusted to do so without making changes to what the buyer had proposed.  I then sent her a copy of it.

> You cannot “go to the Broker” when the agent you are dealing with IS the Broker.

> I really don’t even like the idea of going over an agent’s head to the broker.  We should all be responsible for what we do with our license.  We should be responsible to TREC for our actions, and to the Code of Ethics.  ...And since this woman was on the Professional Standards Committee, she had a higher standard to uphold than most, in my opinion.

> I did not say anything disparaging about another Realtor since I did not disclose her name.  You can’t violate the Code unless you name a party.

> You say you can present your offer to the seller - as long as the listing agent is present.  ...Ha!  ~What if the Listing Agent says “No” and they won’t allow you to do so, as is usually the case…??

We have no procedures in place (that I know of) which will guarantee that a Buyer’s Agent can present an offer to the Seller.

Just as we have no procedures that openly disclose any other offers which may or may not be on the table for a seller’s consideration.

~What if you send along a cover letter with an offer to the seller?  Do you have any guarantee that the Listing Agent will present your letter, or will she just throw it in the trash can?

What happened to the good ol’ days when we used to get the Seller to initial (or sign) that they had seen and rejected any offer that their agent had presented?

(Please don’t tell me about the forms that are available for our use.)

Many, many Listing Agents will simply tell you that your offer was not accepted because the seller took a better offer.  ~We don’t even know if we are competing with an in-house offer or not.  (That “variable commission” thing can come into being when the listing agent gets a buyer at the last minute, and it is Not displayed in MLS.)

Are too many agents getting lazy?
Has technology spoiled agents into thinking they don’t have to get in the car and do something in person?
I have seen an agent send the offer papers to the buyer to be signed digitally, and she did not even “present” or explain the offer to them before they signed it.  Then she sent it digitally to me for the seller to look at it.  ~What if I never sat down with the seller to explain what he was signing?
What if the agent never even showed the buyer the house?
We would wind up with a contract where the two parties involved had never had any real understanding of what they were signing and agreeing to.

~And then watch out for the problems to arise later in the transaction!

Lori Solecki on 02/19/2016

Hi Rick,

We have all felt the pain of working with someone and it did not go smoothly… Regarding the multi offer situation there are no rules that say you cannot present in person to the seller on behalf of your buyer but the listing broker/agent must be present. You are correct we do have to trust one another and hope they are acting ethically.  Just as you stated in the Burleson case .. she was referring to Article 16 of the COE that we should not go behind the broker/agent or contact a client who is already represented. Albeit principals can contact one another directly and sometimes do. I would also tell you while I can understand that the transaction was not easy please be careful not to violate Antitrust by saying you would not show any of her listings.. that is boycotting . I think you were just letting off steam but our conversation can get us into trouble and it also violates Article 15 of the COE with regards to making disparaging remarks about our peers and competition. I know you are a great agent and have been around a long time so as we all know,  when you’re unhappy ... contact the broker.  Have a great day!

Kirk Rutherford on 02/19/2016

Once again, I get what I think is a sign call, of course I identify myself as the listing agent, but I am surprised, after a 7 minute conversation and during my attempt to “close” for the appointment, to learn that I am speaking to a licensed real estate agent looking for a property for her client!!! C’mon…. let’s be thoughtful toward the listing agent, it just takes a little more breath to say the name of your company or to say, “I’m an agent”,  when identifying your self at the beginning of a call to the listing agent. I promise to be just as nice and take just as much time with you as if you were a prospective customer! Yep, that’s my pet peeve of the day. :D

JB Williamson on 02/19/2016

One of the things I find very un-ethical is agents using photos taken by other agents.  When confronted about it, I get all sorts of responses; my client gave to to me, my cousin gave it to me, I copied off the web or MLS & the #1 excuse “I took it”.  When asked to produce the original, more excuses, but never produce the original.

These photos have a copyright by the photographer & the MLS.  It is such a common occurrence in my area I’ve had to add a watermark to each photo, with the copyright symbol & my name.  The watermark is very faint, so far no one has noticed.

I report the violations to MLS, which is a very time consuming process.  A few occasions I’ve filed complaints with TREC when the plagiarist refuses to stop using the photo(s).  So far I’ve been disappointed with TREC, they think it is no big deal.  It is a big deal, it couldn’t be more wrong, it’s stealing!

Tom Richardson on 02/18/2016

*Identifying agents on advertising…they will not even give their name or identify being a REALTOR when calling Listing agents for property information…

Rick DeVoss on 02/18/2016

The scenario mentioned below brings up another issue I want feedback on.

Why is it not common practice for the buyer’s agent to present an offer, or an amendment, to the seller?

When we are told that multiple offers have come in on a listing, how do we know that our offer has even been presented?  And how do we know that it was presented in the best light?  ~There is an element lacking in our procedures, since the seller never even signs anything rejecting our offer.  Many times, the buyer’s agent has to be the one to call the seller’s agent, just to find out what happened to our offer that was turned in several days ago…

How do we even know that there ARE multiple offers??  (Could be a sneaky way to bump up a low offer from a lone buyer.)

A sophisticated buyer asked me:  How do you know that the seller’s agent didn’t present his buyer (or one from his office) in a better light?  If there are multiple offers, there are no checks and balances that would keep a listing agent from showing favoritism to a buyer he was working with, or one that a friend from his own office was working with.

My buyer’s question was basically:  How do you know if the other agent is acting ethically?

My reply was:  I trust them.

Do you?


Rick DeVoss on 02/18/2016

Too many times I am afraid that agents don’t file a complaint when another Realtor acts in a way that they should not act, according to the Code of Ethics, or other accepted standards of behavior.  Perhaps many of us feel it is too much of a hassle to go through the complaint process.  But if we want our industry to be viewed as professional, then we need to stop others from behaving in an un-professional manner.

I recently watched one experienced Realtor re-write an amendment that the buyer had written before she presented it to the seller.  She then got the seller to sign it without telling him that this was her idea and not the buyer’s.  Since this involved repair issues, you can imagine what a stir that caused!

So I re-wrote the proposed amendment as instructed by the buyer, and mailed it directly to the seller.  We figured this way, he would get to see the original proposal before she had a chance to change anything.  She yelled that I had violated some rule by sending something in writing directly to the seller, and even told her seller that I was breaking the Code of Ethics.  (This prejudiced the seller’s attitude toward me and my buyer.)  The seller’s agent, of course, got a copy of the amendment after the seller had had a chance to see it.

The house was in Burleson, and I got such a bad taste in my mouth, that I don’t even want to go back down there to show any of her local listings.

P.S.  This woman is on the Professional Standards Committee, and should know better.

None of my remarks had any affect on changing her mind about whether or not she had done something wrong.  ~So if you can’t trust a member of the Professional Standards Committee, who can you trust?  ...And why would you bother to file a complaint to the same committee…??

James Bauknight on 02/11/2016

Very valuable “feedback”.

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