Professionalism/Dispute Resolution FAQ

Learn about Illinois REALTORS®' dispute resolution programs

Illinois REALTORS® believe in doing business the right way. That's why we offer two programs to help resolve disputes that may arise from real estate transactions. Here's more information on the programs and what they can do for you. 

FAQ: The Illinois REALTORS® Ombudsman Program

What is the Illinois REALTORS® Ombudsman Program? The program serves as an intermediary in disputes or questions that relate to real estate transactions. The service, which is free to consumers, allows the association to tap the expertise of experienced real estate professionals who are trained in problem solving. These professionals, called ombudsmen, can provide guidance on what steps to take, suggest resources for additional help and in some cases can act as an intermediary in resolving basic problems.

Who qualifies to use the service? Anyone who has a real estate question or problem relating to a transaction involving a REALTOR®. It’s important to note that not all who sell real estate are REALTORS®. If you have an issue with someone who is not a REALTOR®, you would need to contact the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Illinois REALTORS® who have disputes with other association members are also welcome to use this service.

Can the Homeowner Help Service provide legal advice? No. But Illinois REALTORS®' ombudsmen can provide resources and answer basic questions. In some cases, the association’s ombudsmen may be able to contact agents and work out problems without having to go through a more formal complaint process. They might also recommend that the consumer seek legal counsel.

What’s the advantage of using the service? Illinois REALTORS® has found many disputes are easy to resolve and don’t require a formal hearing process. Since a formal hearing process can be lengthy, the Ombudsman Program may be able to offer speedier resolution to some disputes.

Who are these ombudsmen? Illinois REALTORS®' program selects individuals who are well established as real estate experts with a commitment to the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, and who understand the role communication plays in making any real estate transaction work. Ombudsmen undertake additional training to serve in this important role.

How long does the process take? The association will usually review the request the day it is received and refer it, if necessary, to an ombudsman. An ombudsman will typically contact you within one business day. He or she will make at least three attempts to contact you regarding the submitted question. Every case is different, but the program’s stated purpose is to quickly resolve issues.

What do I have to tell the ombudsman? In order to best serve you, you will need to complete this form or if you have questions, call 217/529-2600 between 9:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Be prepared to share the name(s) of the REALTOR® involved, key dates, the property’s address and your telephone number and email address.

What if my issue is with someone who is not a REALTOR®? The Illinois REALTORS® Ombudsman Program can only provide guidance in cases involving someone who is an Illinois REALTORS® member. That’s because to be a REALTOR® a person has to take additional training beyond what Illinois requires to obtain a real estate license. In other words, not all who sell real estate are REALTORS®, but those who belong pledge to adhere to a Code of Ethics which is often stricter than what the Illinois Real Estate License Act allows or requires of all real estate licensees.

FAQ: The Ethics Citation Program

What is the Ethics Citation Program? Approved by Illinois REALTORS®' board of directors in 2014, the Ethics Citation Program allows REALTORS® and consumers working with REALTORS® to file complaints stemming from violations of certain Articles and Standards of Practice of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. All complaints filed will be sent to a panel to review and if the panel finds the complaint has merit and falls within the parameters of the program, a citation will be issued with the accompanying fine.

Who can use the program? A REALTOR® or a consumer using a REALTOR® can file.

Do I have to give my name? No. All complaints will be evaluated and investigated if they fall within the program’s parameters regardless if they come to the Citation Panel anonymously or not.

What happens if the complaint has merit?  If a complaint is found to have merit, the Respondent will get a citation outlining the charge(s). The Respondent will receive all relevant information about the complaint.  

What if the person found in violation wants due process? If the Respondent disputes the complaint, he or she has the option to seek a hearing before an ethics hearing panel. If a hearing is sought by the Respondent, the complaint will be sent to the Grievance Committee for review.  The Grievance Committee has the authority to add other Articles to the complaint.   

Where can I learn more about this program and the fines? This document (Link to be added), approved by Illinois REALTORS®' Board of Directors, provides the details of the program.

What won’t this program address? The Ethics Citation Program focuses on violations of certain articles of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. (Specifically, Articles 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 12, 14 and /or 16.) If the complaint falls outside of those Articles, the Citation Panel will dismiss the complaint.  If the complaint is in regards to a license law violation, the complainant should file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Finance and Professional Regulation.

Why does this program exist? Because doing business the right way matters. REALTORS® pride themselves on adhering to a Code of Ethics that goes above and beyond what is required by the state law. Operating in an ethical way serves both the industry and the client.

Breakout Text: 

The Code

REALTORS® take doing business the right way seriously. They operate under a strict Code of Ethics.


Not every person who sells real estate is a REALTOR®, a designation that requires aditional training and adherence to the Code of Ethics. Illinois REALTORS® has more than 44,000 members. Find a REALTOR® here

State regulation

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation Division of Real Estate oversees real estate licenses in Illinois.

Does someone have a real estate license? Check here with IDFPR's lookup tool.

The Real Estate Licensing Act, the rules for all real estate practitioners, is here

Other resources

Ethics Complaint Process for filed grievances. This process must be initiated through a local REALTOR® association. 

Legal Action Fund: The association maintains a fund to help fight legal battles of importance to its membership.