Mediate, arbitrate or litigate — the choice is yours

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You already know we have systems in place to handle complaints when someone thinks a Realtor member may have misbehaved. When a member of the public or another member of the Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors has a problem with a member, they have 180 days from the discovery of the infraction to file a complaint.

Often these complaints are just about behavior. Anyone can read the Realtor Code of Ethics at realtor.org to discover whether the agent has violated that code. If so, the customer, client or another Realtor can take that ethical breach up with our board, who will determine if there has been a violation and what the penalties should be imposed to improve the performance of the offending member and their peers.

In other instances, the complaints are not about ethics or legal rules, but rather about money. An agent may believe a seller whose listing expired sold to a party who was introduced to the property by the Multiple Listing Service prior to its expiration and therefore feels entitled to a commission.

The seller may feel the agent did not effectively market their property and therefore is not entitled to any remuneration from its sale no matter how the buyer found it since it did not sell until after the listing ended.

These issues of money are between brokers. All listings belong to the broker and only the broker can be compensated for their sale. Brokers then share the commission with the agent who procured the listing or the buyer at a negotiated rate. Sometimes brokers disagree about who actually brought the buyer to the property and so dispute the dispersal of the commission.

People in scenarios like these have options. It is not always necessary to involve attorneys in these disputes as the legal fees could sometimes be more than the disputed amounts. For that reason your Association of Realtors has made provisions and provided training to members to help facilitate the resolution of those disagreements.

The process with the least financial impact is mediation. The association will assign a trained mediator to facilitate a resolution or compromise that will leave all of the affected parties feeling they have been heard and have played an active role in determining the outcome. These discussions usually take two or three hours, but allow each party to share their concerns and propose an outcome that will help them move on without further frustration. The objective is agreement.

If the frustration cannot be resolved in mediation, the next alternative is arbitration. In an arbitration, each party presents its case to a panel of Realtors trained in matters of ethics and professional standards and, although not lawyers, who have a basic understanding of real estate law. Either party in the arbitration is allowed witnesses and may be represented by an attorney. Even so, this tribunal will be conducted by National Association of Realtors guidelines and procedures which may be unfamiliar to those attorneys. Unlike a mediation which generally leads to an understanding and hopefully a compromise, an arbitration determines a winner who takes home all the disputed funds while the party who does not prevail is left with a loss.

If neither arbitration nor mediation will work to settle a dispute, you may have, then by all means you can still litigate in court. There is really no more final way to determine the right and wrong under the law, but many find the legal system expensive if not otherwise cumbersome.

We have made provisions to help members of the public and members of the association alike. If you are inclined to sue someone to settle a dispute, you may be well served to explore the other options available through the association of Realtors.

Trust an expert…call a Realtor. Call your Realtor or visit www.cdarealtors.com to search properties on the Multiple Listing Service or to find a Realtor member who will represent your best interests.

Kim Cooper is a real estate broker and the spokesman for the Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors. Kim and the Association invite your feedback and input for this column. You may contact them by writing to the Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors, 409 W. Neider, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83815 or by calling (208) 667-0664.

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