Filing an Ethics Complaint

The Code of Ethics was adopted by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® in 1913 and has been amended throughout the years to accommodate the ever-changing industry.  The local board professional standards review process is one of the most important benefits of REALTOR® membership.  Those who pledge to uphold the Code, depend on the association to enforce the Code and educate Board members of their obligations of REALTOR® membership.

The Cincinnati Area Board of REALTORS® Professional Standards Committee hears complaints against its REALTOR® members based on the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Realtors®. REALTORS® who participate in MLS or otherwise access MLS information through any Board or Association in which they do not hold membership are subject o the Code of Ethics in that Board or Association on the same terms and conditions as Board Members.  Discipline that may be imposed may be the same as but shall not exceed the discipline that may be imposed on members.  In order for a complaint to be forwarded to a hearing, the complaint must be in writing, must be filed within 180 days after the facts described in the complaint could have been known in the exercise of reasonable diligence, must allege violations of specific Articles of the Code of Ethics and must state the facts supporting the allegations.

Anyone filing a complaint with the Cincinnati Area Board of REALTORS® should be aware that if a Code of Ethics violation is found to having been committed, the Board’s authority is limited to the individual’s membership in the Board. The Board does not have the authority to institute sanctions against a real estate license, compel the member to perform under the terms of a contract or award damages to a complainant.  Additionally, the Board is prohibited from giving legal advice or opinions. If legal advice is desired, you are advised to consult with an attorney.

When the Board processes a complaint, it is not assumed that a violation of the Code of Ethics has occurred. Only after reviewing the evidence and hearing testimony during a due-process hearing before a panel of members of the Professional Standards Committee can such determination be made.  The standard of proof is “clear and convincing evidence” of a violation.

Other options that are available for handling an ethics complaint are process via the CABR Voluntary Citation System or Voluntary Ethics Mediation.

The procedure for filing a complaint with the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors® has 3 basic steps.


Read the Code of Ethics. As you read, make notes as to which Article(s) of the Code you believe have been violated by the REALTOR®. Please note the actual Article(s) you feel have been violated as well as the Standards of Practice (which may be referenced as support of the alleged violation).  The Article numbers will need to be included on the formal complaint form as referred to in the second step.


If, after reading the Code of Ethics, you believe that one or more Articles have been violated, file a formal complaint.  To do so, contact the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors® at to have the paperwork sent to you (by e-mail or postal mail) for processing your complaint. You can then print out a Complaint Form for mailing (which will need to be returned to the Board office).  Alternately, you can use the on-line submission option.  Regardless of the method chosen to file, you will need to be as specific as possible when providing information regarding your complaint, listing the actions or inactions by the REALTOR® that you believe were a violation.  Cite the appropriate Article or Articles of the Code of Ethics related to each action or inaction described in the complaint.  Copies of supporting documentation will also be needed in order to process the complaint.

Keep in mind that the information you include in your complaint may be the only opportunity you have to present evidence to the Grievance Advisory Committee for consideration of moving the matter to a full ethics hearing.  Therefore, it is important to include as much detail as possible, so the Committee will have a clear understanding of the circumstances surrounding the complaint.  If including emails or text messages as support, it is advisable to have them arranged and identified in an organized manner so that there will be a clear flow of communication (timeline and parties).  You may want to ask someone to review the information prior to submission for feedback on clarity.


If the Grievance Advisory Committee deems it appropriate to forward the complaint to a formal hearing, your appearance at a hearing of the Professional Standards Committee will be required (unless the individual against whom the complaint is filed waives the right to appear before a panel and does not dispute the allegations as stated in the complaint). This will be your opportunity to address members of the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors® Professional Standards Committee with your complaint. The REALTOR® whom your complaint is against will also be required to attend the hearing and explain or defend his/her actions.

The Board can administer discipline to a REALTOR® found to be in violation of the Code of Ethics as follows:

  • Send a letter of warning or reprimand to the member, with a copy placed in the member’s personal file.
  • Direct the member to attend an ethics class or other training appropriate to the violation.
  • Fine the member up to $15,000.
  • Place the member on probation (with regard to membership).
  • Suspend the member from Board membership or MLS access.
  • Expel the member from Board membership or MLS access.

The Cincinnati Area Board of REALTORS® is a voluntary membership trade association and has legal limits on its authority.  CABR cannot conduct a hearing to determine violations of law, nor can it enforce contracts or award monetary damages to an injured party in a case.  These powers are reserved to the courts and/or state licensing authority.  We also do not have the power to revoke an individual’s real estate license.  This power falls under the authority of the Ohio Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing.

If you are experiencing a problem with a REALTOR® that is legal in nature or if it pertains to the interpretation of a contract, we suggest you contact an attorney to learn your legal options.

The Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors® strives to promote professionalism among its members. When a member does not abide by the Code of Ethics, it affects the entire REALTOR® organization. If you have any questions regarding the jurisdiction of the Board or the complaint process, call us at (513) 761-8800.