Award for MLS Violations Upheld

A Pennsylvania court has considered whether a MLS participant was properly sanctioned for violating a stipulation agreement he entered into with a REALTOR® association.

In 2007, Thomas Wilkins (“Broker”) filed a lawsuit against the Pike/Wayne Association of REALTORS® (“Association”) after the Association removed some of the Broker’s listings from the Association’s multiple listing service (“MLS”) that were listings of non-MLS participants. The parties entered into a settlement agreement (“Stipulation”) that was filed with the court. In the Stipulation, the Broker agreed to: abide by the MLS’s rules; provide the Association with a verification form for all listing agreements; and he would only place listings into the MLS secured by him.

Following the Stipulation, the Association believed that the Broker was once again submitting listings of nonmembers. When he submitted these listings, he listed himself as the co-listing agent and refused to provide copies of the listing agreements to the Association. The Association filed a motion seeking to enforce the terms of the Stipulation. 

The lower court ruled in favor of the Association and found the Broker in violation of the Stipulation. The trial court ordered the Broker to not submit the listings of other salespeople under his account. 

In a later order, the court found that the Broker was in contempt because he had placed ten more listings into the MLS for which he was not the listing agent after the court’s prior order. The court awarded the Association damages for violations of the Stipulation. The award totaled $10,656, covering costs such as the extra staff time incurred in policing the MLS submissions as well as other costs incurred. Both parties appealed the award. 

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the lower court rulings. The Broker argued that the Stipulation created a new MLS rule that applied only to his firm. The court disagreed, finding that the Stipulation clearly spelled out what the Broker was required to do when he submitted listings to the MLS and these requirements did not conflict with the MLS rules. Therefore, the court rejected this argument.

The court also affirmed the ruling that the Broker had breached the Stipulation. In addition to having waived the argument by failing to properly present this argument in his appellate brief, the court found that the trial court had correctly ruled that the Broker had violated the MLS rules by submitting listings where he was not the listing agent and where the actual listing agent was not a subscriber to the MLS.

Finally, the Broker challenged the computation of damages. The trial court had received testimony from the Association about the costs incurred because of the Broker’s violations of the Stipulation. These costs included: $5,200 in staff time for monitoring and removing the improper listings; $3,005 for attending court hearings; $1,400 for the second series of violations; $301 in administrative expenses; and $750 in attorney’s fees for the contempt proceeding. The trial court had received testimony on these damages, and the damages were supported by the evidence. Therefore, the court affirmed the damage awards to the Association.

Wilkins v. Pike/Wayne Assoc. of REALTORS®, No. 518 EDA 2012 (Pa. Super. Ct. Sept. 28, 2012). [Note: This opinion is not published in an official reporter and therefore should not be cited as authority. Please consult counsel before relying on this opinion.]

Editor’s Note: NAR Legal Affairs would like to thank Janet Gallagher, the Association Executive for the Pike/Wayne Association of REALTORS®, for alerting NAR to this decision