Code of Ethics Case Studies

Case #1-26: Subordination of Client's Interests to REALTORS®'s Personal Gain

REALTOR® B was a sales associate with XYZ, REALTORS®. To promote XYZ's in-house listings, the firm's principals offered $1,000 bonuses to the company's sales associates at time of closing on each of XYZ's listings they sold.

Dr. Z, a recent transferee to the town, entered into a buyer representation agreement with XYZ through REALTOR® B.

Dr. Z explained he had specific needs, foremost of which was any home he purchased be convenient for and readily accessible by Dr. Z's spouse who was physically challenged. "Part of my wife's physical conditioning program is swimming," said Dr. Z, "so in addition to everything else, I am looking for a home with a pool or room to build a pool."

REALTOR® B knew there were a number of homes for sale meeting most of Dr. Z's general specifications, several of which were listed with XYZ.

Over the next few days, REALTOR® B showed Dr. Z several properties in the Blackacre subdivision, all of which were listed with XYZ, including one with an outdoor swimming pool. Not included among the properties shown to Dr. Z were several similar properties in Blackacre listed with other firms, including one with an indoor pool.

After considering the properties shown to him by REALTOR® B, Dr. Z made an offer on the home with the outdoor pool. His offer was accepted and the transaction closed shortly thereafter.

Several months later, REALTOR® B received notice of an ethics complaint filed against him by Dr. Z. Dr. Z had learned about the home with the indoor pool from a colleague at the hospital who lived on the same block. The complaint alleged that REALTOR® B had put his interests, and those of his firm, ahead of Dr. Z's by promoting XYZ's listings exclusively and by not telling Dr. Z about a similarly-priced property with an indoor pool, which suited his family's needs better than the property he had purchased. The complaint went on to indicate that REALTOR® B had received a bonus for selling one of XYZ's listings and that Dr. Z suspected that REALTOR® B's failure to tell him about the home with the indoor pool was motivated by the opportunity to receive a bonus.

At the hearing, REALTOR® B defended his actions stating that properties rarely meet all of potential purchasers desires; that he had made Dr. Z aware of several properties that met most of his requirements, including one with an outdoor pool; and that Dr. Z must have been satisfied with REALTOR® B's service since he had purchased a home.

Based upon your interpretation of Code of Ethics Article 1, what do you believe the conclusion of the Hearing Panel should be? Show Answer