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Are MLSs and associations held to the same rules as members?

02/02/2017

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The MLS rules and the Realtor Code of Ethics should be honored by everyone — including MLSs and Realtor associations.

What do I mean?

Well, in August of 2015, my MLS (HiCentral MLS, part of the Honolulu Board of Realtors), came out with the following rule: “Photos will be watermarked with HiCentral MLS for tracking and data-security purposes.”

Everyone had to comply with this rule, and if we did not, we’d be fined and perhaps eventually shut down.

However, it has now been more than 500 days since this rule came out, and the MLS’s own public-facing website does not show a watermark on many new listings. The MLS has simply cropped it out.

This example highlights my point: There is no way to hold the MLS accountable. There is nothing brokers can do, no entity to report them to and no fine we can issue.

Public websites not subject to IDX rules

In addition, it is my MLS’s position that their public-facing website is not to be held to the same rules we must follow for our internet data exchange (IDX) websites.

Without getting into specifics, when they told me I could not so something on my website per the MLS rules, I pointed out that they are doing the same thing.

This is when I got a response that their website is not an IDX or virtual office website (VOW) website; therefore it is not held accountable to the IDX or VOW rules.

Realtor Code of Ethics does not apply

These groups are also not held accountable to the Realtor Code of Ethics.

If an agent is breaking the Code of Ethics, there are several procedures you can follow to report the violation. That’s not so for the MLS and associations.

One recent violation regarded truth in advertising. I saw a Facebook ad promoting a certain public-facing website, but what it claimed was simply not true, which is an ethics violation.

In this case I will give the MLS credit because when I mentioned what it was advertising was not true, it stopped running the ad.

In other cases where I felt it violated the Code of Ethics, however, I have not been able to get any results.

I hope the MLSs and the National Association of Realtors will give this some serious consideration and perhaps start holding themselves accountable in the same way we are.

Bryn Kaufman is the creator and principal broker of OahuRe.com. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Email Bryn Kaufman

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