The trade group says changes will “raise the bar on the professionalism and private speech of America’s 1.4 million Realtors.”
After an annual conference heavily focused on fair housing, the National Association of Realtors on Friday passed controversial changes to its professional standards to crack down on racist and discriminatory speech and behavior.
NAR’s 959-member board of directors approved changes that apply NAR’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice to all of a Realtor’s activities, not just those related to real estate and prohibit hate and harassing speech against protected classes.
One of the policies that was approved, Standard of Practice 10-5, reads as follows: “Realtors must not use harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.” A Realtor that violates the policy would be charged under Article 10 of the Code of Ethics, which prohibits denying equal professional services to anyone in those protected classes.
“I applaud NAR’s Board of Directors and our Professional Standards Committee for their efforts to raise the bar on the professionalism and private speech of America’s 1.4 million Realtors,” said NAR President Vince Malta in a statement.
“Combatting and overcoming bigotry and injustice starts with each of us. Realtors today took tangible steps to ensure we are held to the highest possible standard while providing a mechanism of enforcement for those who violate our new policies.”
The trade group said its Professional Standards Committee, which put forward the policy changes, will continue working to develop case interpretations to assist members and professional standards enforcement volunteers in understanding the code’s applicability.
Before the board meeting, the changes proved controversial due to their potential subjectivity and what some saw as overreach, but after receiving complaints of racist and other discriminatory behavior on social media, trade group leaders insisted that to be a Realtor by day and a “keyboard bigot” by night was unacceptable.
“When one Realtor posts discriminatory speech or conduct online, that content becomes reflective of Realtors on the whole. Left unchecked, those statements become who we are as an organization, and further reinforce the barriers to homeownership experienced by so many Americans. These recommendations are one very impactful way we can advance equity and fairness in the real estate industry, and ensure access to the American Dream for all,” the Professional Standards Committee said in an FAQ.
Panelists at Inman Connect Now on Thursday expressed reservations about the changes, but ultimately they said the trade group should pull the trigger and tweak them afterward as the need arises.
The board of directors meeting, originally scheduled from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Central, is still in progress nearly two hours after it was supposed to end. Inman has reached out for further details on the policies approved and will update this story when we hear back.