Lesley M. Muchow, NAR Deputy General Counsel and Vice President of Legal Affairs, provides an overview of the services and resources available from the NAR Legal Affairs team.
NAR’s Legal Affairs team provides support for you, your association, and your members in three key ways: First, the NAR Legal Affairs team provides risk management education and support. Second, we provide litigation support in cases of key significance to the real estate industry, and the operation of your associations. And third, through NAR’s robust trademark protection program, we work to protect and enhance the value of the REALTOR® trademark.
The NAR Legal Affairs team produces an enormous amount of risk management educational materials, which are available to you and your members on nar.realtor, and I’d like to specifically highlight a few:
First, be sure to follow our “Window to the Law” monthly video series. Our “Window to the Law” videos are released at the beginning of each month, and are short, consumable, five minute videos each focused on a legal topic of interest for real estate professionals, brokerages, and REALTOR® associations.
Next, the Legal Pulse is a quarterly newsletter that analyzes recent legal trends, as well as emerging issues impacting real estate professionals. The Legal Pulse tracks both cases and statutes, and not only tracks areas of risk where real estate professionals are currently being held liable, but also identifies emerging issues and trends, which helps reveal areas of risk where additional training is needed.
The State Issues Tracker is an interactive, searchable database that tracks and analyzes a number of core issues of concern to NAR members. REALTORS® can use the state issues tracker to research state regulations that affect the real estate industry, make comparisons among different state approaches to an issue, and to find state law citations on a particular issue.
The Legal Affairs Team also regularly produces legal case summaries of recent cases of relevance to real estate professionals and associations. You can search the hundreds legal cases summaries our team has produced on NAR.realtor.
In addition to these resources, in the fall of each year, the annual Legal Affairs Seminar is offered to both association executives, as well association legal counsel. This two-day program provides valuable information about current legal topics affecting REALTOR® associations and real estate professionals, such as antitrust matters, intellectual property, and industry litigation updates. The program kicks off with a professional standards session, which is a great way to gain knowledge on all aspects of professional standards administration, followed by a full day of legal topics on the second day of the program.
The NAR Legal Affairs staff also provides legal updates to local and state REALTOR® associations through both webinar presentations, and attendance at in-person meetings.
And, in addition to all of this, the NAR Legal Affairs team is available to respond to legal inquiries from association executives, leaders, and counsel regarding association operations. While our team cannot provide specific legal advice, we can provide general guidance, and help point you in the right direction.
NAR’s provides professional liability insurance to all state and local associations, and association-owned MLSs, who are in compliance with NAR’s policies.
NAR's insurance program provides errors and omissions insurance, directors and officers, employment practices, crime coverage and limited patent protection. Association Directors, officers, members involved in association activities such as committee participation, and staff are also generally covered under the policy.
NAR’s insurance program also allows association’s the ability to purchase excess coverage, which provides higher limits of available coverage.
The insurance policies are valid on a calendar year basis, and at the beginning of each year you will receive a policy information packet, with details about the coverage, and your options and deadlines for purchasing excess coverage through the program.
Be sure to visit NAR’s Insurance Program page on nar.realtor, and watch this short video where Finley Maxson, NAR Senior Counsel and NAR’s point person for the insurance program, highlights the need-to-know items about the program.
Another way that NAR Legal Affairs provides litigation support is through the Legal Action program. Through NAR’s Legal Action Committee, financial assistance is provided to support litigation of significance to Association and real estate professionals.
Requests for assistance have involved a broad scope of legal issues, including antitrust, fair housing, property rights, First Amendment issues, intellectual property matters, RESPA, enforcement of association arbitration awards, and claims against brokers for misrepresentation, and a variety of others.
Legal Action Program assistance comes primarily in the form of funding for attorney’s fees and costs incurred in the litigation, and through NAR’s participation in a case as “amicus curiae,” or “Friend of the Court”.
The NAR Legal Action Program has supported hundreds of important cases during its 45-year history. And, the committee encourages and welcomes requests for support and eagerly looks for opportunities to influence the results in litigation to improve and clarify the legal climate for real estate professionals, associations and MLSs, and real estate owners and users.
NAR’s Trademark Protection Program is designed to preserve the federal trademark registration, create and increase the goodwill, and maintain the original intended purpose and meaning of the term REALTOR®.
The term REALTOR® is a trademark of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and identifies a real estate professional who is a member of NAR and subscribes its strict Code of Ethics. This commitment sets REALTORS® apart from other real estate licensees.
The term REALTOR® does not and cannot be used interchangeably to identify a profession, such as real estate broker, agent or other related real estate professional.
NAR’s Bylaws require each association to cooperate and coordinate with NAR to ensure the proper use of the marks by their members, and that their members use the NAR’s trademarks in compliance with the NAR Constitution and Bylaws and the policies and guidelines set forth in the Membership Marks Manual.
NAR has a number of resources available to assist you and your members in understanding the proper use of the marks, including two brief, animated videos about how association staff and its members can help protect the REALTOR® trademarks.
I want to end with a few last things:
NAR Legal Affairs recently published the Fourth Edition of “Real Estate Brokerage Essentials: Navigating Legal Risks and Managing a Successful Brokerage”. This publication is directed at helping brokers successfully manage their businesses and avoid risk, but you may find this to be a valuable tool to help you better understand the issues and risks facing brokerages and real estate professionals today. Real Estate Brokerage Essentials is available in the REALTOR® Store.
And, finally, I’d like to introduce you to NAR’s Legal Affairs Team. Please feel free to reach out to any one of us at any time.
Our team is looking forward to working with you!