A Wisconsin Realtor is suing the Realtors Association of South Central Wisconsin and its separate Multiple Listing Service corporation for allegedly forcing local real estate agents to buy memberships in the association as a condition of belonging to the MLS.

 

The plaintiff in the suit is Jay Reifert, a local Realtor. Reifert claims he was forced to pay dues to the Realtors Association of South Central Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Realtors Association and the National Association of Realtors in order to access the MLS database of homes for sale.

 

William Malkasian, president of the Wisconsin Realtors Association, could not be reached late Wednesday evening for comment.

 

No one at the Realtors Association of South Central Wisconsin was immediately available for comment Wednesday evening.

 

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in the federal district court in Madison, Wis. It seeks class action status and is asking for $5,000 for each member of the class.

 

The complaint cites the 1991 Thompson federal appeals court decision which held that a Realtor association that had monopoly power over its MLS could not force real estate agents to purchase memberships in the trade association as a condition of gaining access to the MLS. It also cites five other states where courts have declared it illegal to tie the sale of trade association services to the sale of the MLS. 

 

The suit seeks an injunction ordering the South Central Wisconsin MLS Corporation to sell MLS services without requiring MLS users to purchase trade association memberships.

 

David Barry, of Barry & Associates, and Steven Finley, of Finley & Deaton, in San Francisco, represent the plaintiff. This is the fourth case against a local Realtor association brought by Barry that alleges the practice of tying the sale of essential MLS services to Realtor association memberships. The other cases are pending in federal courts in Northern Kentucky, Spokane, Washington and Sarasota, Fla. None of those has reached trial. 

 

***

 

Send news tips or a letter to the editor to opinion@inman.com.

 

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