Featured News 2013 Minnesota-Wisconsin Real Estate Lawsuit Challenges MLS Laws

Minnesota-Wisconsin Real Estate Lawsuit Challenges MLS Laws

A current real estate battle online has gathered attention and may change the way that realtors go about posting online when it comes to property issues. According to reports, the outcome of a case now pending in the U.S. District Court could change the way that Americans buy and sell their homes and threaten the business practices of real-estate agents in the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The dispute has to do with the information that is listed in databases and posted on multiple listing services or MLSes. These are databases that contain information that is supplied by member realtors about listed homes.

The databases also list any commission splits between seller and buyer brokers. One large MLS, the NorthstartMLS of St. Paul, serves about 13,000 realtors in the Minnesota and Wisconsin area. NorthstarMLS only shares information in the database with subscribers and licensed third parties. The information is guarded by MLS agents.

In the court case, a California-based website pulled photos of properties from the MLS database despite the fact that website managers did not have the right to do so. The California website, NeighborCity.com, provides data on real estate and offers buyers and sellers information to compare and evaluate agents.

It also offers ratings for each real estate agent based on the transaction and listing histories that are in MLSes. NorthstarMLS claims that NeighborCity obtained NorthstarMLS content from licensed websites and used information from the NorthstarMLS website with the permission of the data base personnel.

Because of the alleged copyright infringement, NorthstarMLS sued NeighborCity in 2012 and claimed that they displayed photos and information from the multiple listing services without permission to do so. NeighborCity then brought its own claims against the MLS service, saying that the MLS shouldn't have restricted access the way that they do. In fact, NeighborCity personnel then argued that the NorthstarMLS website is unfair because sites or only permitted to access data from the website if they refer prospective buyers to the agent that is listed on the property.

NeighborCity says that they were denied access to the multiple listing services simply because they will provide independent and competing relator referrals. NeighborCity alleges that the MLS wants to facilitate dual agency, where the same agent collects the commissions of both the seller and buyer on a piece of property.

NeighborCity claims that NorthstarMLS is preventing sites from using its information to stifle competition. NorthstarMLS asked the court to throw out antitrust attacks as invalid recently, but a judge will still review the case once again.

The judge claims that the allegations against the NorthstarMLS, if proven to be true, could point to illegal conspiracies. While complicated, matters concerning multiple listing services are important, as they may point to illegalities in real estate. If you have been mistreated by a devious MLS service or believe that you were duped into using a real estate agent that did not provide you with the services that you needed, then you may be able to seek compensation.

Whenever you are dissatisfied with your real estate agent or run into complications regarding an MLS, you need to talk to a local real estate attorney to get clarity. With assistance, you may be able to litigate if you have a legitimate case.

Real estate conspiracies are uncalled for, and the courts will typically strike them down and demand compensation for all victims. Don't hesitate to contact the firm today if you want more information about real estate law or have a legal issue with a multiple listing service or a realtor.

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