The National Association of Realtors is overhauling its MLS guidelines and policies, some of which have been in place for more than 30 years. The association released a 43-page report, “Consolidated Report and Recommendations of the MLS Policy Review Work Group (October 2002) and the MLS Issues Work Group (March 2004),” that contained its recommendations on revamping Realtor MLS rules, during its board of directors meeting Saturday in Washington, D.C.

The report represents a set of recommendations from the association’s MLS Policy Review Work Group and the MLS Issues Work Group. The association is accepting comments on its proposed policy revisions, which are expected to be adopted at the association’s annual convention in November.

A set of “Fourteen Points” originally adopted in 1971 has been substantially reworked and trimmed to 12 points. The recommendations also provide that Realtor MLSs can choose to make statistical reports, sold information and other reports derived from the MLS available to Realtors who do not participate in the MLS but are engaged in real estate-related services.

Other recommendations in the report deal with MLS reciprocal agreements, specified compensation on listings filed with a board MLS and MLS indoctrination requirements, among other topics.

The following is part of the first recommendation from the 43-page report:

Recommendation #1 (2004):

“That the Fourteen Points adopted November 14, 1971 be revised and restated as follows:

The purpose of Multiple Listing is the orderly correlation and dissemination of listing information to Participants so they may better serve the buying and selling public. Boards and associations of Realtors and their Multiple Listing Services shall not enact or enforce any rule which restricts, limits or interferes with Participants in their relations with each other; in their broker/client relationships; or in the conduct of their business in the following areas.

“Boards and associations of Realtors and their MLSs shall not:

“1. Fix, control, recommend, or suggest the commissions or fees charged for real estate brokerage services (Interpretation 14).

“2. Fix, control, recommend, or suggest the cooperative compensation offered by listing brokers to potential cooperating brokers.

“3. Base dues, fees or charges on commissions, listed prices or sales prices. Initial participation fees and charges should directly relate to the costs incurred in bringing services to new Participants.

“4. Modify, or attempt to modify, the terms of any listing agreement. This does not prohibit administrative corrections of property information necessary to ensure accuracy or consistency in MLS compilations.

“5. Refuse to include any listing in an MLS compilation solely on the basis of the listed price.

“6. Prohibit or discourage Participants from taking exclusive agency listings or refusing to include any listing in an MLS compilation solely on the basis that the property is listed on an exclusive agency basis.

“7. Prohibit or discourage Participants from taking “office exclusive” listings. Certification may be required from the seller or listing broker that the listing is being withheld from the MLS at the direction of the seller.

“8. Give Participants or Subscribers blanket authority to deal with or negotiate with buyers or sellers exclusively represented by other Participants (Interpretation 10).

“9. Establish, or permit establishment of, any representational or contractual relationship between an MLS and sellers, buyers, landlords or tenants.

“10. Prohibit or discourage cooperation between Participants and brokers that do not participate in the MLS.

“11. Prohibit or discourage Participants or Subscribers from participating in political activities.

“12. Interfere in or restrict Participants in their relationships with their affiliated licensees.

“As used in this policy, “rule” includes all rules, regulations, bylaws, policies, procedures, practices, guidelines or other governance provisions, whether mandatory or not. “Multiple Listing Service” and “MLS” means multiple listing service committees of boards and associations of Realtors and separately-incorporated multiple listing services owned by one or more boards or associations of Realtors.”

The association in 2002 formed an MLS Policy Review Work Group, led by Realtor Ron Phipps, to review MLS policies and “ensure that they are current, clear and readily understandable.” The work group was also tasked with reformatting the “Handbook on Multiple Listing Policy,” and ensuring that MLS policies are clearly labeled as mandatory, advisory and informational.

The working group was also tasked with determining “whether the consequences for failing/refusing to conform to any mandatory policy should be loss of NAR’s professional liability insurance coverage and loss of charter, or whether lesser consequences are desirable or appropriate in certain circumstances,” according to the association report.

The work group’s effort wasn’t completed in 2002 because the committee’s attention was focused on emerging issues, including the IDX and VOW policies, until mid-2003 when the MLS Issues Work Group was convened,” the association reported. This newer work group, led by Renee Miller, met at the 2003 annual convention and again on March 1, 2004.


Send tips or a letter to the editor to or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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