An arbitration involves a dispute over money (such as a who is entitled to the commission). Should you wish to file a complaint against a member regarding a violation of the Code of Ethics, it is a separate procedure. Visit our Ethics Complaints page for information.
As an alternative to arbitration, OCAR offers mediation. Mediation is a dispute resolution process whereby a mediator works with you and the other parties to facilitate a mutually acceptable resolution of your dispute. In comparison to arbitration, mediation is usually less adversarial and less formal and the parties are more directly involved in the decision making process to resolve their dispute.
Who's Required to File
REALTORS® are required to arbitrate disputes with other REALTORS® (it is a condition of membership). Both parties need to belong to OCAR for OCAR to conduct the arbitration. If parties belong to different Associations, the California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.) will handle the inter-board arbitration.
Generally, REALTORS® are not required to arbitrate disputes with the general public. Members are obligated to arbitrate contractual disputes with clients provided the client agrees to submit the dispute to the Association and agrees to be bound by the award.
In order for the member to be obligated to arbitrate a dispute with his/her client, 3 elements must be met:
- Dispute must arise from an agency relationship between the client and member
- Must be a contractual dispute
- No superseding arbitration agreement exists between the member and the client
With respect to MLS participants and subscribers, they agree to arbitrate disputes that not only arise out of the real estate business but they must be in conjunction with a listing filed in or with the MLS. MLS participants/subscribers are not obligated to arbitrate with the general public or their clients.
How to File
The time limit for filing an arbitration is 180 calendar days after the transaction closes or after the facts constituting an arbitrable matter could have been known. While an arbitration dispute can be heard in California courts based upon the statute of limitations, it can only be heard at OCAR if filed within the 180 day period.
The cost to file is $500. The prevailing party may collect this fee from the non-prevailing party (via C.A.R. Form A-10). Parties may choose mediation first, which is $250.
Download and submit the forms for your situation:
Submit your complaint (via email or in person), along with 6 copies (for distribution to our hearing panel) and the filing fee. If filing online, we will need an original signed when you bring in your 6 copies.
What Happens Next / Items to Note
- Once an arbitration is filed, the complaint is sent to the Respondent.
- Response is due in 15 days.
- Complainant and Respondent have the right to challenge Arbitration Panel Members for cause as well as to disqualify any dates within a specified time period when they would be unavailable for hearing.
- The Notice of the Hearing is sent at least 21 days in advance. The Hearing will be tape-recorded and a copy of the recording will be available at OCAR at a cost.
- Parties may be represented by Legal Counsel. Notice of representation should be sent at least 15 days prior to the hearing.
- A Continuance fee is imposed against the party failing to give adequate notice
- It is the responsibility of each party to arrange for their witnesses to be present at the time and place designated for the hearing.
- Each party is responsible for bringing all evidence and pertinent documents to the arbitration.
- The hearing will be conducted in English. Interpreters are welcomes, however it's the responsibility of the party to pay for and have the interpreter present.