Appendix 9: Select Interpretations from the Official Interpretations of Article I, Section 2 of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Bylaws as Referred to in this Handbook
INTERPRETATION NO. 1
(Adopted November 15, 1960)
“A requirement to participate in a Multiple Listing Service in order to gain and maintain REALTOR® membership is an inequitable limitation on its membership.”
When a Multiple Listing Service is available, is well operated and properly organized, it is the duty of the REALTOR® to consider thoroughly whether he can serve the best interests of his clients by participating in it. The decision, however, must be his own. As a REALTOR®, it is possible for him to conduct his business in an ethical and efficient manner without participating in a Multiple Listing Service. Therefore, his participation must not be a requirement of REALTOR® membership.
INTERPRETATION NO. 2
(Adopted January 24, 1961)
“An initiation fee in excess of three times the amount of the annual rates of dues is an inequitable limitation on its membership.”
Member Boards must not place unreasonable burdens on applicants for membership. The requirements for membership must be reasonable and nondiscriminatory.
The initiation fee, if any, charged by a Board must not constitute an unreasonable barrier to membership of a person otherwise qualified. Nor should a Board seek to finance its activities and operations from initiation fees.
The National Association deems any initiation fee in excess of three times the amount of the annual rates of dues, including state and national, to be unreasonable and therefore inequitable.
Since under Interpretation No. 1, participation in a Board Multiple Listing Service is not mandatory, the Board initiation fee, if any, must be separate from any participation fee which may be charged for the Multiple Listing Service.
INTERPRETATION NO. 6
(Adopted January 24, 1961)
“Any regulation restricting or limiting the practice of a REALTOR® in the conduct of his business, unless it concerns ethical practice, is an inequitable limitation on its membership.”
This Interpretation establishes a rather general guide to the type of rules which a Board may adopt, i.e., in furtherance and support of the Code of Ethics, but guards against the type of rules which unreasonably restrict the Member in the conduct of his business on a basis other than related to the Code of Ethics.
The intent of this Interpretation is to avoid the necessity of the Board of Directors passing upon innumerable details about which Boards constantly inquire. The administrative staff is under instruction to advise a Member Board, upon inquiry, as to whether a practice or proposed rule appears to be inconsistent with, or in violation of, the Bylaw against inequitable rules. If the Member Board then wishes to request an official interpretation by the Board of Directors, it may do so.
Any Member also is entitled to an interpretation upon request. However, as a matter of policy, the National Association prefers that inquiries come from Member Boards. It cannot, however, deny any Member the right to request an interpretation.
INTERPRETATION NO. 9
(Adopted January 24, 1961, Revised May 8, 1973)
“Requirement of a ‘Waiting Period’ before being considered for REALTORS® membership is not an inequitable limitation on its membership if related to the period of time necessary to process the application, not to exceed six months.”
It is consistent with assurance of ethical business practice for a Board of REALTORS® to require that an applicant for membership submit an application detailing past history.
The National Association, as a matter of policy, urges thorough investigation into the background of applicants for membership. This affords the Board an opportunity to investigate the individual’s business conduct and record.
An applicant is entitled to prompt consideration of his application and final disposition of such application must be made within six months.
INTERPRETATION NO. 10
(Adopted May 9, 1961, Revised November 12, 1988)
“A Board rule purporting to require a REALTORS® who holds an exclusive listing to give blanket consent to either subagents or cooperating brokers representing buyers to arrange appointments to show listed property directly with the owner or to negotiate the purchase of listed property directly with the owner, rather than through the listing broker, obstructs observance of Article 3, and thereby is an inequitable limitation on its membership.”
This Interpretation affirms the basic agency relationship between the listing broker and his principal as defined in the listing contract. A Board or MLS rule may not properly interfere with or supersede the relationship established by the terms of the agreement between the broker and his principal.
The cooperating broker as a subagent of the listing broker or as an agent of the buyer enjoys only such rights to show or sell the listing as are granted to him by the listing broker who is ultimately responsible to the principal.
INTERPRETATION NO. 11
(Adopted May 9, 1961)
“A rule of a Member Board prohibiting the acceptance of open listings by Members is an inequitable limitation on its membership.”
Although the Preamble of the Code of Ethics places upon the REALTOR® the aspirational ideal that he “urge the exclusive listing of property . . . ,” it does not provide that a nonexclusive listing should not be accepted.
The REALTOR® must be free to enter into any form of listing contract mutually agreeable to the REALTOR® and the client.
INTERPRETATION NO. 14
(Adopted May 9, 1961, Revised January 26, 1971)
“A Member Board rule or practice which requires Members to adhere to a schedule of fees or commissions, or which authorizes or includes the preparation or publication of a recommended schedule of fees or commissions, is contrary to the Code of Ethics and to the policy of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and is an inequitable limitation on its membership.”
INTERPRETATION NO. 15
(Adopted May 9, 1961)
“A Board rule prohibiting REALTORS® or their salesmen from accepting elective or appointive public office, or requiring their resignation if they accept such office, is an inequitable limitation on its membership.”
INTERPRETATION NO. 16
(Adopted May 9, 1961)
“A Board rule prohibiting employment of married women as salespersons is an inequitable limitation on its membership.”
This Interpretation is a specific application of the general policy of Interpretation No. 20.
INTERPRETATION NO. 17
(Adopted November 16, 1961)
“A Board rule imposing an age limit upon applicants for membership is an inequitable limitation on its membership .”
Age is not a reasonable criterion for membership.
INTERPRETATION NO. 21
(Adopted November 12, 1962)
“A Board rule regulating the number of married women that may be employed is an inequitable limitation and comes within Interpretation No. 16.”
INTERPRETATION NO. 25
(Adopted May 11, 1965)
“A Board rule which prevents the participation of a REALTOR® Member, on equal terms with other REALTOR® Members, in a Multiple Listing Service sponsored, organized or sanctioned by the Board, and which is available to REALTOR® Members throughout the Board’s jurisdiction, is an inequitable limitation on its membership.”
A Board rule which makes services available to some REALTOR® Members, but not to other REALTOR® Members, when such services are available generally throughout the Board’s jurisdiction, is an inequitable limitation upon the membership.
INTERPRETATION NO. 26
(Adopted May 10, 1966, Revised November 16, 1977)
“A Board rule prohibiting the posting by members of ‘for sale’ or other similar signs on property for which the member is agent is an inequitable limitation on its membership.”
The right to display “for sale” or other similar signs reasonably designed to inform the public is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Thus, any rule prohibiting the posting of such signs would be an unconstitutional infringement of the freedom of speech of the REALTOR® and his client. Similarly, a Board owned or operated Multiple Listing Service may not endorse any programs by municipalities, civic groups or civil rights organizations to ban or curtail signs, even if such programs are “voluntary,” because of the “chilling effect” such endorsement might have on the exercise of First Amendment rights.
INTERPRETATION NO. 29
(Adopted May 8, 1973)
“Application and entrance fees for participation in an Multiple Listing Service, owned by, operated by or affiliated with a Board of REALTORS®, in excess of the approximate cost, including the accumulation and maintenance of reasonable reserves, of developing, maintaining, or improving the organization as a going concern, is an inequitable limitation on the membership.”
All services of a Board of REALTORS®, including Multiple Listing Service, should be available to all REALTOR® Members without restrictive entrance and application fees. Such fees should be related to the approximate costs of bringing the Service to the member and must not be computed on the basis of the number of listings of a Multiple Listing Service or on the basis of a pro rata share of its assets.
INTERPRETATION NO. 30
(Adopted May 8, 1973)
“Enforcement of the Code of Ethics by any group, within or without the Board of REALTORS®, other than the Professional Standards Committee and the Board of Directors of the Board of REALTORS®, is an inequitable limitation on its Members.”
Member Boards are required by Article IV of the Bylaws of the National Association to enforce membership compliance with the Code of Ethics. This obligation is properly fulfilled by the Professional Standards Committee and the Board of Directors of the Board. Delegations of this function by the Board to any other body, such as a Multiple Listing Committee, is not appropriate.
INTERPRETATION NO. 31
(Adopted May 8, 1973, Revised January 31, 1977)
“A Board rule or a rule of a Multiple Listing Service owned by, operated by or affiliated with a Board, which establishes, limits or restricts the REALTOR® in his relations with a potential purchaser, affecting recognition periods or purporting to predetermine entitlement to any award in arbitration is an inequitable limitation on its membership.”
In essence, this is a specific interpretation of the general rule established in Interpretation No. 6 that a Board may not have a rule which restricts or limits the REALTOR® in the conduct of his business unless it concerns ethical practice. Thus, a rule of a Board or Multiple Listing Service which would determine a protection period in reference to a prospective purchaser is an inequitable limitation. Further, the Board or its MLS may not establish a rule or regulation which purports to predetermine entitlement to any awards in a real estate transaction. If controversy arises as to entitlement to any awards, it shall be determined by a hearing in arbitration on the merits of all ascertainable facts in the context of the specific case of controversy.
INTERPRETATION NO. 32
(Adopted May 8, 1973, Revised November 11, 2013)
“The inclusion in the dues payable by Board Members of costs of services, products or activities of the Board which properly should be optional is an inequitable limitation on its membership.”
The dues payable by Board Members should represent the allocable costs of the services, products and facilities which are available to and benefit the Members generally, either directly or indirectly. It should not include the costs of those services, products or facilities which can be identified as optional. Thus, for example, the cost of participating in the Board’s MLS should not be included as part of Board dues since whether a Member determines to participate in such an activity will depend upon the Member’s particular method or type of business. The reasonable cost of meals at general membership meetings held pursuant to the Board’s Bylaws may be included in Board dues since such meetings are necessary to the operation of the Board as a whole provided that no more than 35% of the local allocation of the Board’s annual dues revenue may be utilized for this purpose. Associations may, at their discretion, include the costs of lockboxes and lockbox keys, programmers, fobs, smart cards, and other access devices in the association dues.
INTERPRETATION NO. 33
(Adopted February 5, 1974)
“It is an inequitable limitation to deny membership to an applicant who maintains an office for the conduct of a real estate business which is open for business during the normal business hours, recognized in the community, and who holds himself out to the public as being actively engaged in real estate business solely upon the grounds the applicant is not so engaged.”
This Interpretation does not contemplate that the broker must devote all or even a majority of his time to his real estate business or derive any particular percentage of his income from such business. It does not contemplate that the licensee shall have no other job or occupation. It does contemplate that the licensee shall actively seek real estate business; that he shall maintain and adequately supervise a real estate office.
Where question arises as to whether or not a licensee is “actively engaged” in the real estate business, he shall be given the opportunity to present evidence concerning the actual and intended nature and scope of his business activities.
INTERPRETATION NO. 34
(Adopted November 12, 1974)
“It shall be an inequitable limitation for a Board to require a separate office in each Multiple Listing Service area where there is more than one Multiple Listing Service owned or controlled by the Board within the jurisdiction of the Board in order to participate in each such Multiple Listing Service.”
A REALTOR® is entitled to participate in any and all services and programs sponsored by the Board of REALTORS®. A Board rule which circumscribes the right to such participation restricts and limits the conditions of Board membership in violation of Article I, Section 2, of the Bylaws of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.
To institute a divisional Multiple Listing Service based on geographic lines within a Board’s jurisdictional area limits access to Board services and activities in a way which could be deemed and adjudged arbitrary and unreasonable.
As such, it is merely an extension of Interpretation No. 25 in that it refers specifically to the right of a REALTOR® to participate in a Board-owned-and-controlled Multiple Listing Service and any geographic division thereof without the necessity of having an office within said geographic division.