Agents who violated the multiple listing service’s new pocket listing ban had been set to face $5,000 fines beginning next week.

Real estate agents in the Mid-Atlantic region who are using pocket listings to market properties just got an extension before they’ll start facing major fines.

That’s because Bright MLS announced Monday that it is postponing until February plans to impose $5,000 penalties on agents who market properties without putting them in the multiple listing service (MLS). The postponement comes about a month after the company — which has nearly 100,000 subscribers in the Mid-Atlantic area — debuted a new rule requiring agents to add their listings to the MLS within 24 hours of publicizing them.

The rule thus effectively banned pocket and off-market listings, which are sometimes shared for days or weeks without becoming universally available to all agents in the MLS.

At the time the rule was rolled out, Bright MLS also said that violators would begin facing fines on Dec. 1.

Now, fines will instead kick in beginning Feb. 1.

Brian Donnellan

In a statement Monday, Bright MLS CEO Brian Donnellan said that the decision to wait to impose penalties was made in order “to provide extra training and communication while delaying enforcement of fines for two months.” That training will take the form of online compliance sessions, video tutorials, webinars and other offerings.

A Bright MLS spokesperson added in an email to Inman that there is “already a pretty extensive tool kit” but that additional work will be done to “ensure that everyone who needs to see the info will get the info.”

Despite the postponed penalties, Donnellan said that the pocket listing ban is now active and agents are already supposed to be complying with it. Bright MLS is currently “monitoring activity and individuals considered in violation are being notified,” the statement added.

The statement did not provide information about compliance rates and the organization’s spokesperson told Inman that information was not immediately available. However the spokesperson did say that the response to the rule has “been really positive” so far, with detractors coming onboard after the National Association of Realtors (NAR) passed its own version of the policy earlier this month.

Bright MLS’s policy was actually modeled on NAR’s version, which was originally floated as a proposal in early October. Both NAR and, shortly thereafter Bright MLS, argued that eliminating pocket listings improves transparency and cooperation in the real estate industry.

NAR’s board overwhelmingly approved its version of the rule during a conference in San Francisco on Nov. 11.

However, not everyone has enthusiastically supported bans on pocket listings. Most notably, Compass threatened legal action against Bright MLS over the rule, and discount franchisor Assist-2-Sell has also strongly condemned such policies.

Some high-profile agents have criticized pocket listing bans as well.

Asked if resistance from Compass was a factor in the decision to postpone fines, Bright MLS’s spokesperson said that the move had nothing to do with the high-profile brokerage.

Instead, the decision to hold off on fining agents was “all about making sure our subscribers have a chance to get all their questions answered before fines go live.”

“Nothing would make us happier,” the spokesperson added, “than never issuing one fine (and eliminating pocket listings in our footprint).”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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