A real estate broker whose company operates in 23 states has complained to federal officials about a North Carolina multiple listing service that requires participants to physically attend a training session to learn about a new MLS technology platform.

Participants who do not complete the training will not be allowed to access the system.

Ryan Gehris, who is a broker of record for flat-fee real estate company Housepad.com in 10 of those states, said in a Tuesday letter to U.S. Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission officials that he believes the in-person training requirement constitutes a restraint of trade violation.

While Gehris said it’s common for MLSs to require an in-person visit when joining, he said it’s unusual for MLSs to require in-person trainings — typically such training is also offered online.

About one-quarter of the roughly 80 multiple listing services that Gehris’ company has joined required "some sort of attendance to become a member," Gehris said, and "this is the first time of all of these (MLSs) — to have this requirement that I have to go back now" for training.

An official at Triad MLS, a regional MLS based in High Point, N.C., meanwhile, said the training is not intended to be a burden to participants and is required because of the substantial changes in technology.

"We are not trying to target any specific business model — we’re trying to help our members be more familiar with the new technology," said Richard Renton, executive vice president for Triad MLS.

The MLS has received "very few" complaints from members about the training requirement, adding that those complaints have come primarily from brokers based in other states.

Renton said that the MLS has consulted with lawyers about the training requirement to check compliance with a National Association of Realtors MLS policy handbook.

NAR policy, he said, "expressly permits … and does not prohibit periodic training requirements."

In-person training will help to ensure that members are actually present during the training, Renton said. The MLS is offering training over a three-week period.

"There was enough difference and disparity between (the old and new) MLS systems that we felt it was important to have them come be trained here," Renton said.

He noted that the implementation of the Tempo 5 system has not gone smoothly in some other market areas (see Inman News), and that the training sessions were scheduled during a typically slow time of year for the real estate industry.

Gehris had requested that the Triad MLS waive the in-person training requirement — he said in his complaint letter that he already had experience using Tempo 5 and that he would "incur significant and disproportionate costs compared to their local members in order to meet this requirement."

He also stated in the complaint letter, "Beyond my self-interest, this (requirement) would make MLS membership next to impossible for an MLS member in Hawaii, Alaska or Guam."

In 2007 Gehris complained to federal officials after his application to an MLS in Oklahoma was apparently denied — MLS officials later stated that the denial letter was a "miscommunication between the board and staff" and apologized for the error (see Inman News).


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