Final Approval Granted to DOJ-NAR Settlement

In a successful end to the dispute over brokers' online listing displays, NAR and the U.S. Department of Justice agree to terms set by a federal judge that preserve the cooperative character of the MLS.

January 1, 2009

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and the U.S. Department of Justice have settled their differences over policies governing the display of MLS listings on virtual office Web sites.

On Nov. 18, U.S. Federal District Court Judge Matthew F. Kennelly gave final approval to a settlement the two had reached in May. Kennelly's approval officially ends the dispute, which surfaced in 2005, when the DOJ challenged NAR's policies.

"This is a great day for real estate and for consumers," said NAR President Charles McMillan in a prepared statement after the final judgment was announced. "This compromise is terrific news for the industry and shows that the real estate industry is dynamic, entrepreneurial, and fiercely competitive."

NAR leaders say the settlement will preserve the MLS as a means of broker-to-broker cooperation rather than let it become a marketing platform. "This compromise will ensure that MLSs are used for what they were originally intended for, to help real estate professionals find buyers for people who want to sell their homes," says NAR General Counsel Laurie Janik.

Under the settlement, all MLSs must adopt NAR's VOW Policy, as it was modified in 2008, and amend certain sections of their Model VOW Rules. Associations and MLSs are also required to make changes to their bylaws. Associations and MLSs that adopted the 2003 version of the VOW policy or the 2005 Internet Listing Display (ILD) policy must repeal those policies.

Associations and MLSs that adopted rules implementing either the ILD or VOW policy must also repeal those rules at the next meeting of the appropriate decision-making body but not later than Feb. 16, 2009.

Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is the former director of multimedia communications at NAR.