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Procedure for Approving Names of Member Boards and Associations Membership Policy and Board Jurisdiction Committee

Below is the procedure to request a name change for a local association of REALTORS®, including a document checklist and the required forms that must be completed and filed with the Member Policy Department of the National Association.

Questions concerning the name change procedure can be directed to NAR’s Member Policy Department at 1-800-874-6500, xt 8399, or member_policy@realtor.org.

(Where the term Association is used in this procedure, it shall be deemed to include member boards and associations.)

Associations are only authorized to use names approved by the NAR Board of Directors pursuant to these procedures. Names selected by new associations, applications for change of name, and applications for alternative business names (i.e. DBA’s) submitted by existing associations will be considered based on the following criteria:

(1) Ensure that the REALTOR® trademark is used properly and that the term REALTOR® or REALTORS® is used in the name. Any name (including non-geographic names) must convey the idea of an organization of members who have joined together to promote the professionalism of real estate practitioners in the community.

(2) Ensure that the name does not reflect adversely on the REALTOR® organization (e.g., use of a name that implies that membership is somehow restricted by race or religious beliefs, etc.).

(3) Consider objections raised by other associations that the name selected is deceptively similar to the objecting association's name. The term "deceptively similar", means that the name selected by an association is sufficiently similar to the name of an existing association so as to be misleading. For example, an association selecting the name "Greater Orange County Association of REALTORS®" when another association named Orange County Association of REALTORS® already exists might be considered "deceptively similar."       

(4) Consider objections raised by other Associations that the name selected may be misleading in that it does not describe the current actual service area of the association with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

The following is a list of factors that may be considered by hearing panels of the Membership Policy and Board Jurisdiction Committee convened to resolve disputes between associations based on criterion #4. This list is not all inclusive and is intended to guide panels as to facts, is-sues, questions and other considerations that may facilitate their reaching fair, equitable, and reasoned decisions. These factors should also be carefully considered by parties preparing written materials and oral presentations for hearing panels.

  1. What is the association's "service area" (i.e., the geographical area encompassing a majority of members' offices, and the offices of other REALTOR® firms who purchase association services without holding membership locally under Board of Choice)? (An area shall not be deemed to be part of an association’s service area unless applicant demonstrates that a reasonable number of member offices or other offices of REALTOR® firms who purchase services are located in that area.)
  2. Is the proposed name descriptive of the association's service area, or does it suggest or imply that the association serves a significantly larger geographic area than has been demonstrated?
  3. Will the proposed name potentially confuse the public and/or the real estate community with respect to the names/alternative names of other associations.

Note: Associations are strongly encouraged to discuss potential name change requests with neighboring associations prior to submitting an application to NAR. This may alert applicant associations to potential objections and help facilitate resolution of disputes prior to filing of an application.

An association requesting a change of name or approval of an alternative business name (i.e. DBA) must submit the required documentation (i.e., application for Change of Name, Agreement to Use the Term REALTOR®, and a copy of the association Board of Directors minutes authorizing the proposed name) to the National Association's Member Policy Department. Copies shall also be provided simultaneously to the State Association for informational purposes. State Associations shall also be copied on all NAR correspondence concerning processing of name applications. NAR's policy and legal staff will review the application to ensure compliance with #1 and #2 above. Regarding criteria #3 and #4, the National Association shall be responsible for noticing proposed names of new associations and proposed name changes or alternative business names to all associations in the applicant association's state (and any associations in adjoining states whose boundaries physically touch or abut the jurisdictional boundaries of the applicant association). Publication of such notice electronically to all associations shall be deemed to be good and sufficient notice. If #1 and #2 are satisfied and there are no objections from other associations (including the State Association) based on #3 and/or #4 above, the application shall be administratively approved and the National Association's records will be updated accordingly. Written notice of approval shall be provided to the applicant association with a copy to the state association(s).

Objections based on criterion #3 and/or criterion #4 must be filed in writing with NAR’s Member Policy Department. NAR staff shall provide a copy to the Chairman of the Membership Policy and Board Jurisdiction Committee. Written objections must be filed within sixty (60) days of the date the notice is mailed or transmitted by the National Association. The written statement shall set forth in reasonable detail the bases upon which the association alleges that the application is not consistent with criterion #3 and/or criterion #4 and should include all documents or other evidence upon which the objecting association intends to rely in any hearing by the National Association. The written statement shall be reviewed by the Chairman of the Membership Policy and Board Jurisdiction Committee or the Chairman's designee for the purpose of determining whether the written statement establishes any legitimate basis for consideration by a hearing panel of the Committee. 

If determined to be insufficient, it shall be returned to the objecting association accompanied by an explanation or request for additional detail. If the written statement is determined to be sufficient, a copy shall be provided to the applicant association and the association shall have at least thirty (30) days to respond. The response should include documents or other evidence upon which the applicant association intends to rely in any hearing by the National Association. All parties will have the opportunity to submit additional written arguments and documentation approximately fourteen (14) days prior to any scheduled hearing. Only those bases and issues raised in the written submission may be raised by the par-ties in any hearing before the Committee. In the event the applicant association requests a hearing a $500 filing fee must be submitted with the association’s response. The filing fee will be returned following the hearing or under the following circumstances:

a) The applicant association participates in voluntary mediation or other similar dispute resolution process.

b) The applicant association withdraws its application no later than 30 days prior to a scheduled hearing.

(Note: The filing fee will also be refunded if all parties agree to withdrawal of an application within 30 days of a scheduled hearing.)

Written objections and responses should contain only that information relevant to the National Association’s consideration of the dispute, and shall be limited to no more than thirty (30) pages (including supporting documentation). The written materials should speak to the name criteria, as this is the criteria utilized by hearing panels in considering name disputes. Parties to the dispute should make every effort to avoid submitting information that is extraneous or irrelevant. Geographic maps may be submitted, but must be of a size that can be reproduced.

Mediation is strongly encouraged as a means of resolving disputes involving association names. Following receipt of all objections to a name application, the National Association shall provide the applicant association and objecting association(s) with notice and instructions on requesting NAR sponsored mediation. Mediation is voluntary and is available only at the request of all parties to the dispute. If mediation is utilized, a mediator shall be selected from a pool of former or current members of the Membership Policy & Board Jurisdiction Committee identified by the Chair who have completed NAR’s Mediator/Mediation Training Seminar or similar mediation training. A mutually convenient time shall be established for the mediation. Mediation will be conducted using video conferencing services. This does not preclude associations from continuing efforts locally or through their state association to resolve the dispute.

Note: To access a list of available mediators, click here.

The applicant association and all objecting associations shall have the opportunity to appear before a hearing panel of the National Association's Membership Policy and Board Jurisdiction Committee to present their respective positions.

The burden shall be on the applicant association to demonstrate that the name selected by the applicant association meets the criteria for approval. Except as otherwise provided herein, the duration, nature, scope and conduct of any hearing shall be within the discretion of the Chairman of the Membership Policy and Board Jurisdiction Committee. NAR staff shall advise all parties in advance of the date, time and place of the hearing and the procedures to be followed at the hearing. In no event shall the Committee be required to conduct a hearing unless it has received the written file at least forty-five (45) days prior to the next regularly scheduled meeting of the NAR Board of Directors. The applicant association is required to have representative at name hearings in person or through video conferencing services. Objecting parties are strongly encouraged, but not required, to have representatives at name hearings. Speakers shall be limited to current association members, association staff, and legal counsel.

The decision of the hearing panel will be final, except that any party may file a request for procedural review of the decision by the NAR Board of Directors based only on alleged procedural deficiencies or other irregularities the party believes constitute a deprivation of due process. Requests for procedural review shall be considered in accordance with the procedure established by the Board of Directors.

The parties to a name change dispute may settle the issue between them by agreement at any time. However, if the agreement involves a new name which is substantively different than the name which was originally submitted for approval, the new name must be re-noticed and processed pursuant to these procedures.

Name change hearings are not "legal" proceedings or "trials" and are not subject to the customary rules applicable to judicial proceedings such as rules of evidence or cross examination of the other associations' presenters.

The Membership Policy and Board Jurisdiction Committee shall not consider a contested application for change of name if, within a period of two (2) years prior to the date the application is received, the Committee has denied an application from the same association for the same name or the applicant association has submitted and withdrawn the identical (or substantively similar) application provided, however, that the relevant criteria for considering the change of name has not been amended during that two (2) year period. 

Notice of association names as provided in this procedure shall not be required in the following instances. Rather, staff shall have the authority to administratively approve such applications provided all required documentation has been submitted:

where the only change is “Board” to “Association” or deletion of the term “Board” or “Association” or similar term (e.g. Bridgeport Board of REALTORS® to “Bridgeport Association of REALTORS®” or to “Bridgeport REALTORS®”) or the term REALTOR® or REALTORS® is repositioned (e.g. REALTORS® Association of Bridgeport);

where a commercial overlay board is deleting the term "Association/Board of REALTORS®" (or similar variation thereof) and replacing it with the term "REALTORS® Commercial Alliance", provided no other substantive change is being made (e.g. Bridgeport Commercial Association of REALTORS® to “REALTORS® Commercial Alliance of Bridgeport”;   

Note: The following additional policies shall apply to name applications for associations that are parties to a merger:

merging associations may submit name requests prior to approval of the merger by the respective associations.

merging associations may submit up to three proposed names with their request.

the comment period shall be reduced to 30-days (from the current 60-days) in instances where objections to a name application are filed and the applicant association with-draws its request and submits a new application.

Document Checklist

1. APPLICATION FOR CHANGE OF AN ASSOCIATION OR APPLICATION FOR AN ALTERNATIVE BUSINESS NAME: This form must be completed and signed by the Association's President and Secretary (or their appointed designee).

Name Change Application (2 pages)

2. AGREEMENT TO USE THE TERM REALTOR®: This form must be completed and signed by the Association's President and Secretary (or their appointed designee). When the name change is approved by the National Association, the President and Secretary of the National Association will sign the Agreement and a copy will be provided to the Association for its official records.

Agreement to Use the Term REALTOR® (Incorporated Boards) (2 pages)

Agreement to Use the Term REALTOR® (Unincorporated Boards) (2 pages)

3. MINUTES: A copy of the minutes from the General Membership or Board of Directors meeting authorizing the name change must be submitted.