Developing a Local Ombudsman Program 2011 REALTORS® Conference and Expo Anaheim, CA Facilitators: Diane Disbrow and Wally Folks
Agenda • - Opening Remarks/Introductions • - Background/Purpose of Ombudsman • Panel Discussion/ Q&A • Implementation/Resources • - Closing Remarks
Introduction of Panelists • - Patricia Webb, Texas Association of REALTORS® • - Doug Barber, Colorado Association of REALTORS® • - LaDawn Anderst, Idaho Association of REALTORS® • - Jonathan Kessler, Hunterdon/Somerset Association of REALTORS® • - Tess Pickerel, Pueblo Association of REALTORS®
Ombudsman… • What is it?How does it work?
Ombudsman Definition • Om-buds-man – One who investigates complaints, as from consumers, and mediates grievances and disputes. The American Heritage Dictionary
REALTOR® Ombudsman • An informal peer “mediator” • working by telephone (usually) to resolve disputes between parties in a real estate transaction.
Public perception of the REALTOR® complaint process • - Feel process is too cumbersome • - Difficult to understand • - Too much paperwork • - Have to attend a hearing? • - Only want to be heard • - Just help fix the problem! • - May feel the association is protecting it’s own
Ombudsman Benefits • 1) Provides enhanced communications • 2) An initial attempt to solve problem • 3) Valuable to members and the public
Complaints • - Many don’t allege violations of specific articles of COE • - Are transactional, technical, procedural questions • - Most are results from lack of communication • - Some may be violations of the Code • - Some may be monetary disputes
Benefits to Consumers • - “Story” heard • - Someone cares and listens • - Overcome feeling that one REALTOR® covers up for another • - Willing to reopen communication with help of Ombudsman • - SAVES TIME!
Ombudsman Role • - Communication & conciliation • - Not to determine whether ethical violations have occurred • - Anticipate & resolve misunderstandings and disagreements BEFORE matters escalate • - Not to determine who deserves the commission
Other considerations • - If Ombudsman service is declined • Can file a written complaint • - If Ombudsman reaches desired outcome but party does not comply • May still file a formal compliant • - Possible violations of the public trust.
Characteristics of a Good REALTOR® Ombudsman • - Must be fair and credible • - Must be impartial and avoid determining right or wrong • - Honor confidentiality • - Knowledge of COE, state license laws, RE contracts & general real estate business practices
Ombudsman Service and Professional Standards Process • The 180-day filing deadline is suspended during efforts to settle a dispute using an ombudsman. The suspension will begin from the request to use the association’s ombudsman services and resume when those efforts are concluded or terminated. Questions about beginning and ending dates will be determined by the Association President or their designee.
Panel Discussion There are set questions for the panelists, but the audience is welcome to ask their own questions too.
Implementation • 1) Get your leadership team on board • 2) Board of Directors approval • 3) Getting your members onboard • 4) Selling the benefits to the members • 5) Qualified Ombudsman • 6) Training program in place
Realtor.org Resources • For examples of local ombudsman materials go to: • http://realtor.org/mempolweb.nsf/pages/ombudsmanmaterials
Questions? GOOD LUCK!