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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 board/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.

Associations are only authorized to use names approved by the NAR Board of Directors pursuant to these procedures. Names selected by new boards and associations, applications for change of name, and applications for alternative business names (i.e. DBA’s) submitted by existing boards and 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 a board or association is sufficiently similar to the name of an existing board or 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 boards and 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.

A member board or association requesting a change of name or for use of an alternative name must submit the required documentation (i.e., application for Change of Name, Agreement to Use the Term REALTOR®, and a copy of the board/association minutes authorizing the proposed name) to the National Association's Member Policy Department. Copies shall also be provided simultaneously to the State Association. 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 boards and associations and pro-posed name changes or alternative names to all boards and associations in the applicant association's state (and any boards and associations in adjoining states whose boundaries physically touch or abut the jurisdictional boundaries of the applicant association). Publication of such notice electronically to all boards and 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. A copy shall also be provided simultaneously to the state association. 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 shall 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 shall include all documents or other evidence upon which the applicant association intends to rely in any hearing by the National Association. Only those bases and issues raised in the written statement and response 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. 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 and location shall be established for the mediation. NAR will cover the mediator’s travel expenses consistent with NAR’s Member Travel Policy. This does not preclude associations from continuing efforts locally or through their state association to resolve the dispute.

State associations may, at their discretion, adopt hearing procedures to receive and consider objections received from local boards/associations to proposed name changes based on criterion #3 and/or criterion #4, and to make recommendations to the National Association. States must be consistent in their application of this policy. Due process must be provided to ensure that all parties receive a fair hearing and the criteria used by the state association in considering a name change shall be identical to the criteria applied by the National Association. Mediation is encouraged as a preliminary means of resolving potential disputes. All hearings must be conducted and NAR notified of the state association's recommendation within ninety (90) days following notification from NAR of the name change or alternative name request.

The applicant board/association and all objecting boards/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. The duration, nature, scope and conduct of any hearing shall be within the discretion of the Chairman. Committee 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 complete written file at least thirty (30) 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 online meetings. 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 pro-cedural 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 renoticed 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 appli-cation 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” (e.g. Bridgeport Board of REALTORS® to “Bridgeport Association of REALTORS®”);

— 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”;   

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

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 NAME AND/OR CORPORATE STATUS OF A MEMBER BOARD: This form must be completed in duplicate and signed by the Board's President and Secretary.

Name Change Application (2 pages)

2. AGREEMENT TO USE THE TERM REALTOR®: This form must be completed in duplicate and signed by the Board's President and Secretary. 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 Board for its official records. (NOTE: Two (2) forms of the Agreement to use the Term REALTOR® in the name of the local board are enclosed, one for incorporated Boards and one for Boards which are unincorporated.

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.