As REALTORS®, we are pledged to a strict code of professional ethics that safeguards our clients and the public. As an association, it's one of our top priorities to assure that real estate is a profession to be proud of. If you have encountered a real estate agent who you believe has engaged in unprofessional, unethical, or incompetent conduct, there are several options available to you.
Please keep in mind that we are unable to offer legal advice regarding your specific situation. The following information is not all-inclusive, and you may wish to pursue multiple options at once. In all cases, it may be to your benefit to consult with an attorney before pursuing any of the actions below.
WHAT TO TRY FIRST
First and foremost, as with the early stages of any dispute, start off by contacting the agent’s broker of record. By initially trying to resolve matters personally, you may be able to avoid protracted proceeding or having to use up hours of valuable personal time. You may also be able to resolve monetary disputes informally and finally without involving third parties.
You will be speaking informally with a company manager and/or owner (as opposed to the agent in question). Open, constructive discussion often resolves questions or differences, eliminating the need for further action. If you're not sure how to contact the relevant brokerage, check here for an alphabetical list of our member firms.
However, if the agent cannot or will not resolve the matter to your satisfaction, then you must determine if your action deals primarily with an ethical concern or if you are seeking compensation for losses you wish to claim.
Property Dispute Mediation
This Dispute Resolution System is a program for buyers, sellers, and REALTORS® to resolve disputes that arise in the purchase and sale of real estate. The service is an alternative to the more costly and time consuming process of civil litigation in the courts.
Resolution of Ethical Concerns
If your complaint deals primarily with whether the actions or inactions taken by an agent were ethical or lawful rather than specifically seeking damages for a loss sustained, then you may consider the following options:
File an ethics complaint with RAMP
File a complaint with the real estate commission
File a complaint with law enforcement
Compensation for Losses Sustained
If you have sustained monetary losses as a result of action by the agent, then your options include the following:
Contact an attorney to seek civil restitution
FILE A COMPLAINT WITH RAMP
When to consider it: If you believe an agent has engaged in unethical behavior, we suggest you examine the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. You can review the code here to search for relevant provisions.
What it does: If an agent is found to be in violation of the Code, possible reprimands include fines, formal warnings, and loss of REALTOR® membership. You will not receive any restitution or other payments as a result of this process.
How to do it: Click here for a detailed overview of the process or to download a complaint form. Please be aware that you (and any witnesses you may have) will be required to attend a formal hearing to proceed with your complaint.
FILE A COMPLAINT WITH THE LICENSURE BUREAU
When to consider it: If you believe an agent has violated the terms of his/her real estate license by engaging in conduct prohibited by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
What it does: The Real Estate Commission will pursue an investigation if it finds your complaint to have merit and legal standing. Depending on the results of the inquiry, prosecution may follow. Potential outcomes include civil fines and loss or suspension of license. You will not receive any restitution or other payments as a result of this process.
How to do it: For more details about the handling of complaints, click here. Be aware that you (and any witnesses you may have) could be required to attend and testify before a formal hearing panel.
FILE A COMPLAINT WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT
When to consider it: If you or someone else may have been the victim of criminal conduct by a person who is (or poses as) a real estate agent, mortgage broker, etc.
What it does: Beyond the penalties enumerated above, the perpetrator could be subject to incarceration and/or severe fines.
How to do it: Contact your local police department. In Pennsylvania, the public prosecutor is the county district attorney. If you are a resident of Allegheny County (or if the property in question, your agent, or your agent's broker are located in Allegheny County), you may wish to contact the office of District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.
FILE A CLAIM WITH THE RAMP PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS AND ARBITRATION COMMITTEE
When to consider it: If you have a claim against an agent with whom you have a contractual relationship.
What it does: After receiving your claim, the committee will proceed pursuant to the Pennsylvania Arbitration Act and may conduct a hearing at which you and any witnesses you may have may be required to attend to proceed with your complaint
How to do it: Contact RAMP's professional standards administrator for an overview of the process or to obtain necessary forms.
CONTACT AN ATTORNEY TO FILE A LAW SUIT
When to consider it: If your complaint involves the desire to achieve restitution or damages in compensation for an agent's botched handling of a real estate transaction.
What it does: Pending a review of the case by your attorney, you may wish to file a civil law suit that would proceed through the court system and/or settlement.
How to do it: Contact an attorney of your choice. (Several lawyers specializing in real estate matters are affiliate members of this organization. Their contact information is available here, although RAMP can neither endorse nor vouch for the competence of those listed. This list is in no way comprehensive, and you should consult outside sources before choosing an attorney.)
If you prefer, you may contact the Lawyer Referral Service of the Allegheny County Bar Association, which will provide you with information about lawyers in the area whom you may contact.