Attorney Bruce Aydt, ABR, CRB, SRS, is a national real estate educator, a Missouri real estate broker, and past chair of the NAR Professional Standards Committee.
You can send him your ethics questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: I’ve noticed that quite a few real estate practitioners are using a city name followed by the letters “MLS,” even though the URL is really for their Web site, not their local multiple listing service. An example would be “JonestownMLS.com” as a URL for a broker in Jonestown. Doesn’t this violate the Code of Ethics?
A: Until recently, the Code of Ethics did not specifically address this practice. However, as more REALTORS® have started using “MLS” to indicate that their Web site gives consumers certain information derived from their local MLS, the NAR Professional Standards Committee decided that there was a need to provide specific guidelines.
As a result, it recently adopted new Case Interpretation 12-20 that holds that a URL leading reasonable consumers to the mistaken assumption that the Web site belongs to an MLS instead of to a real estate professional violates the Code of Ethics. Effective January 2008, Article 12 of the Code, which traditionally required REALTORS® to present a “true picture” in their advertising and other representations, was revised to expand REALTORS®’ duties to be honest under the Article and to make it clear that the “true picture” test in the Code of Ethics applies to all communications, including Web sites and blogs.
In addition, new Standard of Practice 12-13 states that “REALTORS® shall not: 1) use URLs or domain names that present less than a true picture or 2) register URLs or domain names which, if used, would present less than a true picture.”