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July 24, 2020

What to know about MLS Data Use & Abuse

“A Multiple Listing Service is a means by which authorized Participants make blanket unilateral offers of compensation to other Participants; (acting either as subagents, buyers agents, or in other agency or nonagency capacities defined by law); by which cooperation among participants is enhanced; by which information is accumulated and disseminated to enable authorized Participants to prepare appraisals, analyses and other valuations of real property for bona fide clients and customers; by which Participants engaging in real estate appraisal contribute to common databases; and is a facility for the orderly correlation and dissemination of listing information so participants may better serve their clients and the public. Entitlement to compensation is determined by the cooperating Broker’s performance as a procuring cause of the sale (or lease).”


An MLS is not just about bedrooms and baths! Believe it or not, MARIS staff spends a significant amount of time maintaining and safeguarding your MLS data.

How many different sets of rules govern brokers and agents? State and Municipal laws, Real Estate Commission Rules, The REALTOR® Code of Ethics, and, of course, MLS Participation Rules. You have a lot to keep track of!

Did you know the foundation of MARIS rules come from NAR with allowances for adoption of additional rules as needed? Like other regulations, MLS rules change from time to time. We encourage you to review the entire MARIS rule set regularly but also want to share a few examples of how brokers and agents violate their MARIS Participation Agreement. Test your knowledge on the examples below:

  1. “All information provided to the MLS must be accurate and/or verifiable. (i.e. Tax ID, room counts, sq. ft., etc.)”.  Common ways that MLS participants violate this rule include:
    1. Advertising a property in a way that does not accurately reflect its current state or meet MLS guidelines and municipal regulations, attempting to solicit a better offer.
    2. Making mistakes when entering listings
    3. Advertising a property under contract as ACTIVE to gain more market exposure.
    4. Not verifying listing data against tax record data, appraisal data, or other reasonably available sources.
    5. All of the above.

The answer is “e”. Have you ever had a property disappear from your listing cart or client portal hours after you first viewed it? Most likely, the broker accidentally activated the listing with incorrect information like the wrong number of bedrooms, garage spaces, or even list price. When they fixed the mistake, the listing no longer met your search criteria. Mistakes happen! Our staff is here to help you correct them. That is easy. What is hard? When an agent, well intentioned or not, takes liberties with property data attempting to gain a better offer on a listing. This goes well beyond “puffing” and can also run afoul of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. Real life examples include:

  • Calling a living room, kitchen, or basement room a bedroom because it has a bed but meets none of the municipal or MLS requirements for a bedroom.
  • Counting below grade finished area in above grade square footage.
  • Advertising a residential property as commercial when it cannot be re-zoned.
  • Advertising a property as ACTIVE instead of Active Under Contract (AUC) or Pending in order to generate more leads for the agent or appease the seller.
  1. “Sharing or knowingly providing unauthorized access to MARIS membership software or data contained within the MARIS systems is prohibited.” MARIS regularly researches violations of this rule because a member:
    1. Gave their login to a friend, relative, investor, or client, thinking it was a harmless act.
    2. Sold their login to a company or individual, often a home service or alarm company.
    3. Copied a listing agent’s photo for a postcard to send to their farm area.
    4. Shared a listing of a different broker without that broker’s expressed permission on social media to drum up business from their SOI.
    5. Shared information on their own listing with a member of a different MLS.
    6. Copied contact information from the MLS roster for a campaign to raise awareness for a local charity.
    7. A, B, C, D and F

The answer is “g”. Other MLS rules that govern the examples above can be found in our rules and regulations.

  • For many years, MARIS has instituted a secure system for tracking fraudulent logins. What is the big deal with giving out login credentials to relatives, friends, investors, or clients? Besides the value of the membership that you pay to participate in, the MLS is a closed system containing copyrighted data and confidential data that creates liability when used incorrectly.
  • Copying roster data and using it to contact agents for recruiting purposes or even to raise awareness for a local charity not only runs afoul of acceptable MLS data usage, it violates the CAN-SPAM Act.
  • Photo Copyright misuse has huge consequences for the MLS and real estate industry. Make sure you understand your rights when purchasing photography. NAR has some sample photographer agreements you may want to review. When uploading photos and data into the MLS, you are attesting to the right to use them. That right does not grant other MLS participants unlimited usage.
  • IDX agreements allow brokerages to sharing information from other participating brokers on their website. This agreement does not extend to an individual broker/agent advertising part or all of an MLS listing on their non-IDX website, marketing material or social media page without the explicit permission of the listing broker. Doing so can violate copyright laws in addition to MLS rules.
  • Brokerages ARE allowed to share their own information to non-MARIS participants from the MLS when dealing with members of a different MLS or Association.

MLS data is sought after by many entities. It is desired for commercial and other purposes. Agents and brokers should make sure they are not enabling other parties to misuse this data by allowing unauthorized access, unintended use of IDX or other data feeds, or violation of copyright.

As always, our MLS Staff is here to help you with questions on the above or any other issues you may have. Call us at 314.984.9111 or email us at