Professional Standards: Understanding the Ethics Citation System

The Chicago Association of REALTORS®’ Ethics Citation System allows you to file an anonymous complaint against a C.A.R. member based on the Articles of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. Since we began this program two years ago, we haven’t witnessed a high recidivism rate from offenders, so the fine-based system seems to be working to deter unethical behavior in the vast majority of cases. On average, we receive four to five complaints each month; the majority center on advertising issues and unauthorized access to listings. Remember that Article One of the Code of Ethics concerns the access, use or allowance of others to access or use a property managed or listed on terms other than those authorized by the owner or seller. Simply put, this means you may not give out lockbox codes to your clients. Not only can this be a Ethics Citation System violation that carries an automatic 2500 dollar fine, it could also be a violation of the Code of Ethics and a membership violation under Section 8.14 of the Chicago Association of REALTORS® bylaws. This could also constitute trespassing in the court system. Article 12 concerns all things advertising. Violation of this section results in automatic fines between 250 and 500 dollars – per violation. Common violations include failing to disclose the name of real estate firms in advertising in a readily apparent manner. This happens most frequently with teams. Remember, you are required to include your real estate firm in any and all advertising, even as a team. Another frequent violation is the false claim to have “sold” a property – most often due to a postcard of “recently sold” properties in an area where the violator did not participate in the sale of any of the closed properties. Remember that you should present a true picture in advertising and representation to the public at all times. This includes your Internet content posts. For example, unless you have the listing for 123 Main Street – or permission from the listing broker – you should not have a flyer for 123 Main Street hanging in your storefront. Truth in advertising extends to your URLs and domain names. Therefore, you should avoid creating and using addresses such as Finally, unless you have a property listed, you may not advertise or offer to sell that property without the authority of the owner or the owner’s authorized agent. These are just a few examples of how the Ethics Citation System works to ensure that Chicago REALTORS® are staying true to the Code of Ethics and the ideals of professionalism. Please remember that you are also subject to the laws of the Illinois License Act. Staying familiar with each will help limit your exposure to a Citation or Ethics filing. For questions on the Ethics Citation System or Professional Standards, please contact our Professional Standards Team at