When a frustrated Orlando REALTOR® contacted the ORRA Professional Standards Department earlier this year, he knew that his complaint was unlikely to be grounds for a violation of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. But the REALTOR® on the other side of his transaction was neglecting to return communications and putting the closing in jeopardy.
Fortunately, the new ORRA Ombudsman Program was able to step in. An ORRA ombudsman made a simple call to the missing-in-action agent, and got the sale back on track.
“In many, many cases, complaints against REALTORS® are breaches of etiquette or professionalism that don’t (yet) qualify as a COE violation,” explains experienced ORRA Ombudsman Cathy Marino, Cathy S. Marino, Inc. “Regardless, the offending actions — or the non-actions — cause a great deal of aggravation on the other side. Oftentimes, an ombudsman can reach out, identify themselves as an official ORRA representative, and facilitate a resolution, even if it’s as simple as encouraging a return phone call.”
The ORRA Ombudsman Program is essentially an informal telephone mediation service available for free to both ORRA members and consumers. ORRA currently has a cadre of more than 20 ombudsmen who have completed mediation training. Most also have experience serving on the ORRA Grievance or ORRA Professional Standards committees, so they have extensive familiarity with the tenants of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics.
The ORRA Ombudsman program was initiated in response to the new NAR Core Standards requirements for local REALTOR® organizations (ORRA has achieved compliance). According to NAR the intent of the new standards is to both "raise the bar for REALTOR® associations and ensure high-quality service for REALTORS®."
The standards are also meant to ensure that REALTORS® receive a solid value proposition for their dues dollar. Under the new rules, every association needs to maintain standards in the following areas:
Code of Ethics. Local associations are expected to have a viable, easy-to-navigate professional standards process for enforcing disputes.
Advocacy. Local associations are expected to strive for RPAC “fair share” contributions through dues billing or other means and to participate in state Calls for Action.
Consumer Outreach. Associations wil be asked to demonstrate their role as the Voice for Real Estate® in their communities through plans to share market data with the public, issue press releases, or sponsor community-building activities.
Unification and Support of the REALTOR® Organization. Associations need to adopt a business or strategic plan with an advocacy component; maintain corporate documents, policies, and procedures; and enforce dues billing.
Technology. Every association needs the ability to communicate using contemporary electronic resources, including a website with links to the other levels of the REALTOR® organization.
Financial Solvency. An annual review or audit by a certified public accountant is expected to ensure each association’s financial health.