Each month, the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) publishes a list of real estate agents, brokers, and corporations who have violated real estate law.

These cases range from minor transaction-related infractions to significant derelictions of public duty. The vast majority of violations cited in these lists are trust fund violations.

Related article:

Brokerage Reminder: Trust fund(amentals)

Depending on the infraction, disciplinary actions imposed by the DRE include, but are not limited to:

  • monetary fines;
  • suspension from the practice of real estate; and
  • outright revocation of a real estate license.

The DRE publishes this information on its website as a matter of public interest. Not only is knowledge about real estate law violators useful for the buying and selling public to gauge their trust in a potential agent or broker, it is also useful for real estate licensees. Licensees may use this information to provide insight into who they might be going into business with.

Further, it never hurts to know how not to practice real estate — a glance through the DRE’s monthly disciplinary actions will remind any licensee to be conscientious and ethical in their own practice.

Due to the inherent public interest in violators of real estate law, firsttuesday occasionally reports on these disciplinary reports to provide such reminders.

The CAR curtain

The California Association of Realtors® (CAR), however, does things a little bit differently.

CAR keeps its own code of ethics — written and updated by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) — and, inevitably, Realtor® members routinely violate it. As such, CAR maintains its own list of ethics violators on its website. Individuals who violate CAR’s code of ethics may be fined, suspended, expelled from the organization or otherwise reprimanded.

However, this list is not publicly available.

In order to access information about CAR’s ethics violators, it is necessary to be a member of CAR and have an account on its website — which not only requires someone to be a licensed real estate agent, but to pay exorbitant yearly dues that far exceed their value.

CAR did not respond to a request to access information about their ethics violators. The association also did not respond to a query about its policy of non-transparency.

While CAR’s code of ethics is not California-specific, it still purports to hold Realtor® members to a high standard of professionalism. Thus, it is important that CAR make information about individuals or corporations who do not hold themselves to that standard a matter of public record — not just for its members, but for all licensees, as well as members of the public.

The real estate industry is based on trust — both from clients and from other licensees. And for better or for worse, many in the industry place their trust in Realtor® organizations like CAR. Making this information publicly available isn’t difficult — and could be a small but significant step toward earning that public trust.