Can a REALTOR® include one of my listings in her print advertising without my consent?

QUESTION:  I recently received a postcard that was sent out by a REALTOR® who lives in my neighborhood (I’ll call her “Jane”). The postcard contained a list of 15-20 houses in the neighborhood and identified them as either sold, listed or under contract. While some of the “listed” properties were Jane’s listings, many were not. For those active listings that were not hers, Jane did include the name and telephone number of the listing agent. One of those listings was mine. I never authorized Jane to advertise my listing and, while my client and I both appreciate the exposure of my client’s property, I feel like Jane’s advertising without my consent is improper. Am I right about that?

ANSWER:  You are. While Jane’s postcard does not violate the advertising provision in the North Carolina Real Estate Commission Rules, her advertising of your listing without your express permission is a violation of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics.

Article 12 of the Code of Ethics governs advertising by REALTORS®. That provision requires REALTORS® to be honest and truthful in their real estate communications. Standard of Practice 12-4 provides guidance that is relevant here. It provides, in part, that REALTORS® shall not advertise property without authority.

One of the Case Interpretations published in the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual provides additional guidance. Case #12-16 discusses the subject of “Copying and Publishing other Brokers’ Advertisements”. In that case, REALTOR® A had advertised certain listings of other brokers on his website. He had been careful to list the company name and phone number of the listing company with each ad of his competitors’ listings. When one of those competitors (“REALTOR® B”) found out about REALTOR® A’s advertising, she filed an ethics complaint. The Hearing Panel found REALTOR® A in violation of Article 12. In their finding of facts, the Hearing Panel noted that even though REALTOR® B’s clients might not object to such advertising, “the lack of objection could not be assumed and would not relieve REALTOR® A of the obligation to obtain REALTOR® B’s specific authority and consent to advertise her listings.”

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