The National Association of Realtors (NAR), is one of the largest trade associations in the US, with around a million members. Membership is international.
The word “Realtor” is commonly used in the English language to refer to any licensed broker of real estate. However it’s precise meaning is that the person is a member of this trade association. Those who are not members cannot call themselves “Realtors”.
Membership in this association usually goes in tandem with membership in the state association. Many multiple listing services require membership in NAR to access their listing services.
NAR members agree to adhere to a code of ethics. State associations typically enforce the code of ethics through a Professional Standards Council or Committee. Members of the association form hearing panels charged with the responsibility of hearing testimony and evaluating evidence from complaints filed by the public or other members against association members for alleged violations of the code of ethics.
If the panel finds the member in violation, disciplines recommended may be enforced. These disciplines may include: a letter of warning or reprimand, taking additional educational courses, suspension or expulsion of membership, probation or fines.
States in the United States also have real estate commissions or boards who also oversee complaints by the public regarding real estate licensees.