Unwanted, unsolicited email is a frustrating problem for almost everyone who uses the Internet. Spam email clutters inboxes, slows down web servers, and costs time and money to manage.

Spam can't be prevented entirely, but REALTORS® can reduce the amount of unwanted email that comes into their in-boxes. And on the flip side of the coin, REALTORS® who use email to find and work with clients can take steps to ensure that their own electronic communications aren't seen as spam.

NAR strongly supports efforts to control fraudulent, misleading and abusive unsolicited emails and emailing practices.


Federal laws regulate the use of email, telephone, and fax for solicitation purposes. None of these requirements are new, and instead this article is intended to serve as a resource for basic compliance with each set of laws. It is important to remember that state laws continue to govern intrastate communications and so you will need to be familiar with any such laws in your state.

Email Requirements

CAN SPAM requires that all commercial electronic mail messages contain the following:

  1. a legitimate return e-mail and physical postal address;
  2. a clear and conspicuous notice of the recipient's opportunity to “opt-out,” or decline to receive any future messages;
  3. an opt out mechanism active for at least 30 days after message transmission; and
  4. a clear and conspicuous notice that the message is an advertisement or solicitation.

A consumer’s opt out request must be honored within ten days. The business can give the consumer a menu of opt out options If a consumer consents to receiving commercial electronic mail messages from the business, the business must still comply with CAN SPAM’s email requirements, except that the business does not have to mark the electronic mail message as an advertisement or solicitation.

CAN SPAM does not contain a private right of action for consumers, and so the law will be enforced by federal agencies and state attorneys general (Internet service providers may also bring lawsuits against egregious spammers). The recoverable damages are $250/message which violates the Act, up to $2 million total. There are treble damages available for willful violations of the Act.

There have been refinements to the rules over the years, such as how to evaluate an email with both commercial and noncommercial content. In addition, there are specific requirements on how to process opt-out requests. For a more thorough discussion of these rules, click below.

Political Advocacy

Current Legislation/Regulation

None at this time.


Issue summary
NAR Federal Issues Tracker

Legislative Contact(s):

Melanie Wyne,

Daniel Blair,

Regulatory Contact(s):

Melanie Wyne,

What is the fundamental issue?

The federal Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act ("CAN SPAM") does not ban unsolicited commercial e-mails but does identify protocols that must be observed by those sending unsolicited emails to advertise a commercial good or service. CAN SPAM also authorized the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to establish a Do-Not-E-mail Registry and required the agency to report to Congress on the feasibility of such a registry.

I am a real estate professional. What does this mean for my business?

REALTORS® use email to (1) respond to inquiries, (2) contact clients and firms involved in sales transactions, (3) remain in contact with former clients and (4) promote property listings. Overly onerous anti-spam legislation could limit the use of e-mail for business purposes.

NAR Policy:

NAR strongly supports efforts to control fraudulent, misleading and abusive unsolicited e-mails and e-mailing practices. Such efforts must be carefully considered to balance the elimination of abusive spamming practices with the needs of small business to conduct legitimate business via e-mail without the imposition of significant compliance burdens.

Legislative/Regulatory Status/Outlook

NAR and state associations continue efforts to educate members on how to comply with the legislation.

NAR Committee:

Federal Technology Policy Committee


We've already done the research for you. References (formerly Field Guides) offer links to articles, eBooks, websites, statistics, and more to provide a comprehensive overview of perspectives. EBSCO articles (E) are available only to NAR members and require a password.

Tips for Fighting Spam

  • Check the website's privacy policy when you are submitting your email address
  • Use separate email addresses for personal messages and chat rooms and newsgroups
  • Choose a unique email address, such as jd5102oe@whatever.com
  • Use an email filter
  • Forward unwanted/deceptive email to the Federal Trade Commission at uce@ftc.gov
  • Complain to the sender's Internet Service Provider
  • Forward spam to your Internet Service Provider's abuse desk

Source: Scam Alerts, (Federal Trade Commission)

Avoiding Spam

Best practices to minimize spam, (Intermedia, Aug. 5, 2016)

Should I worry if email I send is marked as spam?, (Ask Leo, Sept. 30, 2015)

Email marketing best practices: CAN-SPAM, (UpCounsel, June 16, 2015)

Subject line spam trigger words, (Mequoda, May 6, 2015)

Marketing e-mails your clients want to click, (Daily Real Estate News/REALTOR® Magazine, Mar. 19, 2015)

6 mistakes that can get your emails marked as spam (even you’re not a spammer), (Constant Contact, Jan. 20, 2015)

Marketing e-mails your clients want to click, (Daily Real Estate News/REALTOR® Magazine, Mar. 19, 2015)

CAN-SPAM & the Do-Not-Email Registry

The need for new Federal anti-spam legislation, (Yale Journal on Regulation, Feb. 11, 2014)

FTC issues CAN SPAM rules, (National Association of REALTORS®, n.d.)

The CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business, (Federal Trade Commission, Sept. 2009)

Useful Websites

About Spam & Phishing – Email: spam@uce.gov
Forward unsolicited commercial email (spam), including phishing messages, directly to the FTC at spam@uce.gov. These messages will be stored in a database law enforcement agencies use in their investigations.

OnGuardOnline: Spam—OnGuardOnline is the federal government’s website to help you be safe, secure and responsible online. The Federal Trade Commission manages OnGuardOnline.gov, in partnership with the federal agencies listed below. OnGuardOnline is a partner in the Stop Think Connect campaign, led by the Department of Homeland Security, and part of the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

eBooks & Other Resources

Books, Videos, Research Reports & More

The resources below are available for loan through Member Support. Up to three books, tapes, CDs and/or DVDs can be borrowed for 30 days from the Library for a nominal fee of $10. Call Member Support at 800-874-6500 for assistance.


The following eBooks and digital audiobooks are available to NAR members:

Blocking Spam & Spyware for Dummies® (eBook)

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The inclusion of links on this page does not imply endorsement by the National Association of REALTORS®. NAR makes no representations about whether the content of any external sites which may be linked in this page complies with state or federal laws or regulations or with applicable NAR policies. These links are provided for your convenience only and you rely on them at your own risk.


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