Following a round of golf early one morning, Homeowner A approached REALTOR® X. “We’ve outgrown our home and I want to list it with you,” said Homeowner A. “I’m sorry,” said REALTOR® X, “but I represent buyers exclusively.” “Then how about REALTOR® Z?,” asked Homeowner A, “I’ve heard good things about him.” “I don’t know if I would do that,” said REALTOR® X, “while he does represent sellers, he doesn’t cooperate with other brokers and, as a result, sellers don’t get strong offers for their properties.”
Later that day, Homeowner A repeated REALTOR® X’s remarks to his wife who happened to be a close friend of REALTOR® Z’s wife. Within hours, REALTOR® Z had been made aware of REALTOR® X’s remarks to Homeowner A earlier in the day. REALTOR® Z filed a complaint against REALTOR® X charging him with making false and misleading statements. REALTOR® Z’s complaint was considered by the Grievance Committee, which determined that an ethics hearing should be held.
At the hearing REALTOR® Z stated, “I have no idea what REALTOR® X was thinking about when he made his comments to Homeowner A. I always cooperate with other REALTORS®.” REALTOR® X replied, “That’s not so. Last year you had a listing in the MLS and I spent months working with the buyers that submitted a purchase offer. You didn’t pay me the offer of compensation, though; you paid another broker who stole my clients from me at the last minute, and all he did was submit the purchase offer.”
REALTOR® Z countered REALTOR® X’s statements, indicating he had made a blanket offer of compensation in the MLS, and that his refusal to pay REALTOR® X had nothing to do with him not cooperating with other brokers, but the fact that there was a procuring cause dispute at the end of the transaction. Upon questioning by panel members, REALTOR® X admitted he had no personal knowledge of any instance in which REALTOR® Z had refused to cooperate with any other broker, but assumed that his failure to pay the compensation REALTOR® X felt he had earned was likely how REALTOR® Z treated other brokers.
The Hearing Panel, in its deliberations, noted that cooperation and compensation are not synonymous. In fact, Standard of Practice 3-10 provided that the duty to cooperate established in Article 3 relates to the obligation to share information on listed property, and to make property available to other brokers for showing to prospective purchasers/tenants when it is in the best interests of sellers/landlords. In that respect, the Hearing Panel felt REALTOR® Z had, in fact, cooperated with REALTOR® X. However, to characterize REALTOR® Z’s refusal to pay requested compensation because of a genuine commission dispute as a “refusal to cooperate”, and to make the assumption and subsequent statement that REALTOR® Z “did not cooperate with other brokers”, was false, misleading, and not based on factual information. Consequently, REALTOR® X was found in violation of Article 15.