- Authority for local and state associations to discipline members is most commonly established in associations’ bylaws in Article VI and in Article VII (which incorporates the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual (“Manual”) by reference).
- Section 1 of the Manual defines “suspension of membership”.
- Suspension of REALTOR® membership results in suspension of “all Board/Association-provided rights, privileges and services”. This refers only to rights, privileges, and services that are available to REALTORS® as a result of their being REALTORS®.
- While suspensions are generally imposed for at least thirty days and not longer than one year, these limits are not applicable when the cause of the suspension is “remediable”, that is something the suspended REALTOR® can correct, thereby lifting the suspension. Examples of this include paying delinquent dues, fees and charges, taking required training (including mandated New Member or Code of Ethics training, etc.).
- Suspensions are generally lifted at the end of the stated term. An exception exists where suspension is imposed for “remediable” violations including failures to pay dues, fees and charges, and failures to meet education requirements.
- Suspensions of indeterminate duration imposed for “remediable” violations/offenses may remain in effect indefinitely.
- Suspensions for specified periods are lifted automatically at the end of the specified term; suspensions for remediable violations/offenses remain in effect until the suspended member “cures” the violation.
- “Reinstatement fees” may not be charged to restore a suspended member to good standing unless authority to assess such fees is specifically established in an association’s bylaws, similar to the authority required to assess application fees, annual dues, special assessments, etc. Any reinstatement fee assessed should be reasonable in amount; related to actual costs incurred in restoring members to good standing; and should be assessed uniformly and consistently irrespective of the reason for suspension.
- Suspension and termination are not synonymous. A suspended member is still a REALTOR® and is subject to all of the duties and obligations of membership on an ongoing basis, including the duty to pay membership dues and any pending fees and charges; to abide by the Code of Ethics; to arbitrate disputes with clients and with other REALTORS® in circumstances where arbitration is deemed mandatory, etc.
- The consequences of a REALTOR® principal being suspended on other REALTOR® principals and on non-principal REALTORS® in the same firm depend on the bylaws of the local association. Generally this is addressed in Article VI of an association’s bylaws. In some associations the membership of all REALTORS® is suspended automatically if any REALTOR® principal is suspended; and those members’ suspensions remain in effect until the originally-suspended member either (a) is restored to good standing or (b) severs his relationship with the firm. Other associations, however, allow suspended REALTOR® principals to “relinquish management control” during the term of suspension with the memberships of other REALTOR® principals and non-principal REALTORS® being unaffected. It is essential to carefully review the local association’s bylaws to determine whether/how the status of other REALTORS® will be affected if a REALTOR® principal is suspended.
- MLS Participants are generally REALTOR® principals or firms comprised of REALTOR® principals. Non-principal brokers and sales licensees licensed with MLS participants have access to and use of MLS by virtue of their affiliation with an MLS participant in good standing. MLSs cannot deny non-principal brokers and sales licensees access to and use of MLS on the basis that such licensees do not hold REALTOR® membership or because their REALTOR® membership is suspended.
- If an MLS Participant is a REALTOR® principal who is suspended, his participatory rights in MLS suspend if REALTOR® membership is a condition of MLS participation. This will not occur, however, if an association’s bylaws allow suspended REALTOR® principals to “relinquish management control” and if MLS participatory rights are transferred to another REALTOR® principal in the firm. In those circumstances, the REALTOR® membership of other principals is unaffected, and the access or “subscriber” rights of non-principal brokers and sales licensees are unaffected. Where MLS participatory rights are available to nonmember brokers (either as a matter of law or as a matter of local determination), the fact that a REALTOR® participant’s REALTOR® membership has been suspended will not affect his continued right to participate in MLS.
- Where MLS participatory rights are available to nonmember brokers (either as a matter of law or as a matter of local discretion); where higher MLS fees are assessed nonmember participants; and where the REALTOR® membership of a participant is suspended, MLS dues, fees and charges should not be increased to the “nonmember level” during the term of suspension. The basis for higher fees for nonmembers is that associations of REALTORS® owning and operating MLSs incur expenses related to MLS operations that are ordinarily supported by member dues rather than MLS fees, e.g. enforcement of rules through associations’ professional standards processes, dispute resolution (arbitration and mediation) of contractual/financial disputes between member and nonmember participants, etc. Suspended members continue to pay dues (supporting these services) while suspended.
- If lock boxes are an association service and a suspended REALTOR® is a principal broker, that REALTOR®’s right to hold a lock box key or programmer suspends during the duration of the suspension. If the bylaws of the association do not permit the suspended REALTOR® principal to “relinquish management control” so other REALTORS® associated with firm will not be suspended, then the membership of non-principal brokers and sales licensees and their right to hold keys also suspends until the REALTOR® principal’s suspension is lifted.
- If lock boxes are an association service and a suspended REALTOR® is a non-principal broker or sales licensee, his ability to hold a lock box key or programmer is unaffected. Refer to the Lock Box Security Requirements found in NAR's Handbook on Multiple Listing Policy for additional detail.