On Thursday, November 19, 2020, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that it planned to file a lawsuit against NAR, along with a proposed settlement that targeted NAR’s rules, policies, and practices, which the DOJ says are anticompetitive. The DOJ’s proposed settlement attempts to bring a level a transparency and competition to the real estate industry.
The proposed settlement posed by the DOJ would require NAR to change rules regarding broker commissions and service charges. NAR would have to change rules that currently enable MLS participants to not display or distribute MLS listings based on the compensation offered to the brokerage or agent, and rules that permit MLS participants to represent/suggest that their services are free to a client with no cost. The proposed settlement also calls for an end to limiting access to lock boxes to real estate brokers with respect to those properties listed on the MLS.
NAR agreed to comply with the proposed DOJ settlement agreement and will modify some of its rules and repeal others in order to resolve the antitrust lawsuit. NAR must comply with the settlement agreement within 45 days.
The goal is to enhance competition in the real estate market, which would result in a wider variety of choices and better service for customers. The settlement also sought to more explicitly state NAR rules in a fashion that fits within the intent of NAR’s Code of Ethics and MLS Policies related to information about commissions and MLS participation.
With increased competition in the real estate market and transparency for customers, it is important real estate brokers take steps to ensure their actions are meeting these new, more stringent rules. If a broker fails to appropriately adopt these new guidelines, the broker runs the risk of having disciplinary action taken against their broker’s license by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Williams & Nickl has effectively assisted real estate brokers defend their license when such situations have occurred. If you find yourself in need of help, Williams & Nickl can guide you through the process.