New MLS Standards Approved

November 13, 2020

NAR’s Board of Directors today approved eight recommendations aimed at bringing more consistent standards to REALTOR®-owned MLSs across the country. The recommendations came from the 125-member Multiple Listing Issues and Policy Committee, which met Wednesday as part of the virtual REALTORS® Conference & Expo.

The recommendations strengthen accountability on the part of both MLSs and their participants (broker members) and subscribers (agents or brokers affiliated with a participant).

Under the new standards, participants are required to submit accurate listing data and correct known errors. MLSs must display customer service and technical support contact information on their websites and supply API data feeds that use the same access and information as other MLS data feeds.

“It’s been five years since web API and the [Real Estate Standards Organization] data dictionary became required by NAR,” said Jon Coile, vice president of MLS & Industry Relations for HomeServices of America Inc. and co-chair of NAR’s MLS Standards Work Group. “We’ve all had enough time to prepare, so it seemed it was time to rip the Band-Aid off, retire [the former standard] RETS, and make API the de facto industry standard.”

Consistent with NAR’s ACT fair housing action plan, MLSs are now also required to put in place a process for identifying potential fair housing law violations in listing content and advising participants and subscribers to remove or correct potential violations. 

Under the new rules, MLS participants and subscribers who receive more than three administrative sanctions in a year will be required to attend hearing(s) for subsequent infractions; their broker would be notified and also would need to attend any hearing. And the recommendations would require MLSs to have the option of processing complaints without revealing the complainant’s name.

The MLS Standards Work Group was appointed in late 2019 to consider the criteria and enforcement process for minimum MLS standards. Work group members, speaking in support of the recommendations, said these measures are already in place in many MLSs around the country. The group is expected to bring a full set of standards forward in spring 2021.

“These standards are intended to ensure consistency and quality of MLS services across the entire country,” said Chris Carrillo, CEO of MetroMLS in Milwaukee, who co-chaired the MLS Standards Workgroup along with Coile.

The rules go into effect Jan. 1, 2021, and the local implementation deadline is March 1, 2021.

The committee considered another recommendation, from the MLS Technology and Emerging Issues Advisory Board, that ultimately didn’t go to the Board of Directors. The recommendation would have required MLS participants to include a physical address for all listings. Opponents of the proposal said certain high-profile clients would object to having their address revealed. Other committee member shared the concern, saying law enforcement officers, victims of domestic abuse, and others sometimes required privacy. Some suggested a “privacy class” of listings that would enable sellers to opt out of including their address, but members speaking in favor of the proposal said it was brought forth in the spirit of the Clear Cooperation policy—and as a way to maintain the quality of MLS data. Rather than amend the recommendation and undermine those goals, committee members voted to send it back for further consideration.