Who can participate in a REALTOR® association-owned MLS?

The answer to this question is found in the REALTOR® association bylaws or MLS bylaws for REALTOR® association MLSs operated as a separate corporation. For those that adopted NAR’s Model Board Bylaws, Article XVIII, Section 4 establishes the criteria for eligibility in the MLS. Here’s how it breaks down:

  1. Participants must be REALTORS® who are a principal, partner, corporate officer, or branch office manager acting on behalf of a principal.
  2. Participants must hold a current, valid real estate broker’s license.
  3. Participants must offer or accept compensation to and from other participants (or be licensed or certified by a state regulatory agency to engage in the appraisal of real property).
  4. Participants (other than appraisers) must actively—continually and on an ongoing basis—endeavor to:

a. list real property of the type listed on the MLS in which participation is sought and/or
b. accept offers of cooperation and compensation made by listing brokers in the MLS.

With respect to the first requirement above, REALTOR® association-owned MLSs may opt to permit participation by licensed broker firms as well as individual principals, partners, corporate officers, or branch office managers who are not REALTORS®.

Note that solely engaging in referral activities is not sufficient to qualify for MLS participation, but if an applicant is engaged in brokerage to an extent that does permit MLS participation, it may also engage in making referrals to others.

What may a REALTOR® association-owned MLS do when there is reason to believe that a participant or potential participant is not actively endeavoring to engage in brokerage as required?

An MLS should apply the requirements above when reviewing eligibility for MLS participation. A participant or potential participant may be required to demonstrate that he or she is “actively endeavoring” in brokerage in order to be eligible for the MLS.

An MLS should apply to all participants and potential participants the same criteria and a similar level of scrutiny for determining whether or not a firm is actively endeavoring in brokerage. MLSs should apply the participation rule and their efforts to enforce that rule evenhandedly, uniformly, and consistently with respect to all participants.

MLSs may require potential participants to affirmatively represent that they are actively endeavoring in brokerage on the application for MLS participation. In addition, NAR prepared a sample letter that MLSs may use when there is a reasonable basis to believe that a participant or potential participant is not actively endeavoring in brokerage. As you can see, the sample letter allows participants or potential participants the opportunity to provide information to clarify or explain the firm’s brokerage activities. If the participant or potential participant fails to demonstrate the requisite brokerage activity, no further action by the MLS is required, and MLS participation may be denied or terminated consistent with the requirements of due process.

Must a REALTOR® association-owned MLS provide an IDX or a VOW feed to its participants?

Yes. Once it has been determined that a participant satisfies the requirements for eligibility in an MLS, the participant is entitled to receive an IDX, VOW, or other data feed to the same extent as all other participants, and is entitled to receive all other services and benefits attendant to being a participant in the MLS.

Must an IDX display include the name and contact information of the MLS participant?

Yes. As provided in Section 18.2.7 of the mandatory IDX rules for MLSs, an MLS participant’s IDX display must clearly identify the name of the brokerage firm under which the MLS participant operates in a readily visible color and typeface. The IDX display must also include a means (e.g., email address, telephone number) for the MLS participant to receive comments.

May MLS participants’ IDX displays appear on third party websites?

Yes. In 2012, the NAR Board of Directors adopted comprehensive amendments to the IDX policy clarifying that IDX displays cannot be limited to only websites owned by participants, but rather can be housed on third-party sites, provided the actual IDX display, as distinguished from the website itself, is controlled by the participant.

The necessary actual and apparent control of IDX displays means:

  1. The participant has the ability to add, delete, modify and update information in the display.
  2. The participant developed the display, or caused the display to be developed for the participant pursuant to an agreement giving the participant the authority to determine what listings will be displayed and how those listings will be displayed.
  3. A reasonable consumer viewing the participant’s display will understand the display is the participant’s, and that the display is controlled by the participant.

Questions can be referred to NAR’s Member Experience team at NARPolicyQuestions@realtors.org or 312-329-8399.