The National Association of Realtors (NAR) added sexual orientation to its equal opportunity policy at its recent annual governance meeting.
The Board of Directors passed the measure unanimously, according to Realty Times.
The organization’s Code of Ethics generally has reflected the Fair Housing Act, saying that its members “shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.”
The Fair Housing Act also outlaws discrimination based on age. In addition, a number of cities and states already outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation–for example, the District of Columbia and New York State, which added that category to the Human Rights Law in 2002.
But in those states that don’t forbid discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgendered individuals, there is no requirement for real estate agents and brokers who are not members of the National Association of Realtors to treat everyone equally regardless of their characteristics.
Founded in 1908, NAR claims on one of its Web sites “more than 1 million” members and on another, 1.2 million. I vaguely recall reading a while ago that membership during the bursting of the bubble had slipped below 1 million. No matter.
The fact is that the number of individuals selling real estate without having joined the organization is huge.
I was a member when I had a real estate business in the Washington, D.C. region, where realtors compose an overwhelming majority. (The organization insists on capitals plus a trademark, and I enjoy flouting that arrogant stricture.) Because of NAR’s rigorously enforced Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, I always thought, and continue to think, that membership is a very good thing.
Violations are punished with more than a slap on the wrist. Indeed, it can be a slap on the face and an attack on the bank account. Unfortunately, I don’t recall precise penalties and couldn’t locate them on an unprotected part of the NAR’s Web site.
To me, it is a shame bordering on travesty that virtually all real estate practitioners in New York City look down their noses at NAR membership and that none of the major brokerages require their personnel to be members.
We are left with a code issued by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), which makes laughable the concept of enforcing ethical behavior.
I am certain that I would have fewer transgressions to chronicle here if NAR membership became mandatory. What is right is right, and no one should be allowed to get away with wrongdoing.
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022