Article 20.1: Definitions

Section 1: Definitions

A A Virtual Office Website (“VOW”) is a Participant’s Internet website, or a feature of a Participant’s website, through which the Participant is capable of providing real estate brokerage services to consumers with whom the Participant has first established a broker-consumer relationship (as defined by state law) where the consumer has the opportunity to search MLS listing information, subject to the Participant’s oversight, supervision, and accountability.  A non-principal broker or sales licensee affiliated with a Participant may, with his or her Participant’s consent, operate a VOW.  Any VOW of a non-principal broker or sales licensee is subject to the Participant’s oversight, supervision, and accountability.

B As used in of these Rules, the term “Participant” includes a Participant’s affiliated non-principal brokers and sales licensees – except when the term is used in the phrases “Participant’s consent” and “Participant’s oversight, supervision, and accountability”.  References to “VOW” and “VOWs” include all VOWs, whether operated by a Participant, by a non-principal broker or sales licensee, or by an Affiliated VOW Partner (“AVP”) on behalf of a Participant.

C “Affiliated VOW Partner” (“AVP”) refers to an entity or person designated by a Participant to operate a VOW on behalf of the Participant, subject to the Participant’s supervision, accountability and compliance with the VOW Policy. No AVP has independent participation rights in the MLS by virtue of its right to receive information on behalf of a Participant. No AVP has the right to use MLS listing information except in connection with operation of a VOW on behalf of one or more Participants.  Access by an AVP to MLS listing information is derivative of the rights of the Participant on whose behalf the AVP operates a VOW.

D.  As used in Article 4, Section 1 of these Rules, the term “MLS listing information” refers to active listing information and sold data provided by Participants to the MLS and aggregated and distributed by the MLS to Participants.

Article 20.2: Participant's VOW

Section 2: Participant's VOW

A.  The right of a Participant’s VOW to display MLS listing information is limited to that supplied by the MLS(s) in which the Participant has participatory rights.  However, a Participant with offices participating in different MLSs may operate a master website with links to the VOWs of the other offices.
B.  Subject to the provisions of the VOW Policy and these Rules, a Participant’s VOW, including any VOW operated on behalf of a Participant by an AVP, may provide other features, information, or functions, e.g.  Internet Data Exchange (“IDX”).
C.  Except as otherwise provided in the VOW Policy or in these Rules, a Participant need not obtain separate permission from other MLS Participants whose listings will be displayed on the Participant’s VOW.

Article 20.3

Section 3

A. Before permitting any consumer to search for or retrieve any MLS listing information on his or her VOW, the Participant must take each of the following steps:

    1. The Participant must first establish with that consumer a lawful broker-consumer relationship (as defined by state law), including completion of all actions required by state law in connection with providing real estate brokerage services to clients and customers (hereinafter “Registrants”). Such actions shall include, but are not limited to, satisfying all applicable agency, non-agency, and other disclosure obligations, and execution of any required agreements.
    2. The Participant must obtain the name of, and a valid email address for, each Registrant. The Participant must send an email to the address provided by the Registrant confirming that the Registrant has agreed to the Terms of Use (described in subsection (d) below). The Participant must verify that the email address provided by the Registrant is valid and that the Registrant has agreed to the Terms of Use.
    3. The Participant must require each Registrant to have a user name and a password, the combination of which is different from those of all other Registrants on the VOW. The Participant may, at his or her option, supply the user name and password or may allow  the Registrant to establish its user name and password.  The Participant must also assure that any email address is associated with only one user name and password.

B. The Participant must assure that each Registrant’s password expires on a date certain but may provide for renewal of the password. The Participant must at all times maintain a record of the name, email address, user name, and current password of each Registrant.The Participant must keep such records for not less than 180 days after the expiration of the validity of the Registrant’s password.

C. If the MLS has reason to believe that a Participant’s VOW has caused or permitted a breach in the security of MLS listing information or a violation of MLS rules, the Participant shall, upon request of the MLS, provide the name, email address, user name, and current password, of any Registrant suspected of involvement in the breach or violation.  The Participant shall also, if requested by the MLS, provide an audit trail of activity by any such Registrant.

D.  The Participant shall require each Registrant to review and affirmatively to express agreement (by mouse click or otherwise) to, a “Terms of Use” provision that provides at least the following:

    1. That the Registrant acknowledges entering into a lawful consumer-broker relationship with the Participant;
    2. That all information obtained by the Registrant from the VOW is intended only for the Registrant’s personal, non-commercial use;
    3. That the Registrant has a bona fide interest in the purchase, sale, or lease of real estate of the type being offered through the VOW;
    4. That the Registrant will not copy, redistribute, or retransmit any of the information provided except in connection with the Registrant’s consideration of the purchase or sale of an individual property;
    5. That the Registrant acknowledges the MLS ownership of, and the validity of the MLS’s copyright in, the MLS database.

E. The Terms of Use Agreement may not impose a financial obligation on the Registrant or create any representation agreement between the Registrant and the Participant. Any agreement entered into at any time between the Participant and Registrant imposing a financial obligation on the Registrant or creating representation of the Registrant by the Participant must be established separately from the Terms of Use, must be prominently labeled as such, and may not be accepted solely by mouse click.

F.  The Terms of Use Agreement shall also expressly authorize the MLS, and other MLS Participants or their duly authorized representatives, to access the VOW for the purposes of verifying compliance with MLS rules and monitoring display of Participants’ listings by the VOW.  The Agreement may also include such other provisions as may be agreed to between the Participant and the Registrant.

Article 20.4

A Participant’s VOW must prominently display an e-mail address, telephone number, or specific identification of another mode of communication (e.g., live chat) by which a consumer can contact the Participant to ask questions, or get more information, about any property displayed on the VOW.  The Participant, or a non-principal broker or sales licensee licensed with the Participant, must be willing and able to respond knowledgeably to inquiries from Registrants about properties within the market area served by that Participant and displayed on the VOW.

Article 20.5

A Participant’s VOW must employ reasonable efforts to monitor for, and prevent, misappropriation, “scraping”, and other unauthorized use of MLS listing information.  A Participant’s VOW shall utilize appropriate security protection such as firewalls as long as this requirement does not impose security obligations greater than those employed concurrently by the MLS.

NOTE: MLS’s may adopt rules requiring Participants to employ specific security measures, provided that any security measure required does not impose obligations greater than those employed by the MLS.

Article 20.6

A. A Participant’s VOW shall not display listings or property addresses of any owner(s) of record who has affirmatively directed the listing broker to withhold the owner(s) of record listing or property address from display on the Internet. The listing broker shall communicate to the MLS that the owner(s) of record has elected not to permit display of the listing or property address on the Internet. Notwithstanding the foregoing, a Participant who operates a VOW may provide to consumers via other delivery mechanisms, such as email, fax, or otherwise, the listings of owner(s) of record who have determined not to have the listing for their property displayed on the Internet.

B.  A Participant who lists a property for a owner(s) of record who has elected not to have the property listing or the property address displayed on the Internet shall cause the owner(s) of record to execute a document that includes the following (or a substantially similar) provision:
Owner(s) of Record Opt-Out Form

i. Please check either Option A or Option B

A.[    ] I have advised my broker or sales agent that I do not want the listed property to be displayed on the Internet.


B.[    ] I have advised my broker or sales agent that I do not want the address of the listed property to be displayed on the Internet.

ii. I understand and acknowledge that, if I have selected option a, consumers who conduct searches for listings on the Internet will not see information about the listed property in response to their search.

Initials of owner(s) of record
C. The Participant shall retain such forms for at least one year from the date they are signed, or one year from the date the listing goes off the market, whichever is greater.

Article 20.7

A. Subject to subsection (b), a Participant’s VOW may allow third-parties:

  1. To write comments or reviews about particular listings or display a hyperlink to such comments or reviews in immediate conjunction with particular listings, or
  2. Display an automated estimate of the market value of the listing (or hyperlink to such estimate) in immediate conjunction with the listing

B. Notwithstanding the foregoing, at the request of owner(s) of record the Participant shall disable or discontinue either or both of those features described in subsection (a) as to any listing of the owner(s) of record. The listing broker or agent shall communicate to the MLS that the owner(s) of record has elected to have one or both of these features disabled or discontinued on all Participants’ websites. Subject to the foregoing and to Section 8, a Participant’s VOW may communicate the Participant’s professional judgment concerning any listing.  A Participant’s VOW may notify its customers that a particular feature has been disabled “at the request of the owner(s) of record.”

Article 20.8

A Participant’s VOW shall maintain a means (e.g., e-mail address, telephone number) to receive comments from the listing broker about the accuracy of any information that is added by or on behalf of the Participant beyond that supplied by the MLS and that relates to a specific property displayed on the VOW. The Participant shall correct or remove any false information relating to a specific property within two days excluding weekend and federally recognized holidays following receipt of a communication from the listing broker explaining why the data or information is false. The Participant shall not, however, be obligated to correct or remove any data or information that simply reflects good faith opinion, advice, or professional judgment.

Article 20.9

A Participant shall cause the MLS listing information available on its VOW to be refreshed at least once every three (3) days.

Article 20.10

Except as provided in these rules, the National Association of REALTORS® VOW Policy, or in any other applicable MLS rules or policies, no Participant shall distribute, provide, or make accessible any portion of the MLS listing information to any person or entity.

Article 20.11

A Participant’s VOW must display the Participant’s privacy policy informing Registrants of all of the ways in which information that they provide may be used.

Article 20.12

A Participant’s VOW may exclude listings from display based only on objective criteria, including, but not limited to, factors such as geography, list price, type of property, cooperative compensation offered by listing broker, and whether the listing broker is a REALTOR®.

Article 20.13

A Participant who intends to operate a VOW to display MLS listing information must notify the MLS of its intention to establish a VOW and must make the VOW readily accessible to the MLS and to all MLS Participants for purposes of verifying compliance with these Rules, the VOW Policy, and any other applicable MLS rules or policies.

Article 20.14

A Participant may operate more than one VOW himself or herself or through an AVP.  A Participant who operates his or her own VOW may contract with an AVP to have the AVP operate other VOWs on his or her behalf.  However, any VOW operated on behalf of a Participant by an AVP is subject to the supervision and accountability of the Participant.

Article 20.15

A Participant’s VOW may not make available for search by or display to registrants any of the following information:

  1. The compensation offered to other MLS Participants.
  2. The type of listing agreement, i.e., exclusive right to sell or exclusive agency.
  3. The owner(s) of record and occupant’s name(s), phone number(s), or e-mail address(es).
  4. Instructions or remarks intended for cooperating brokers only, such as those regarding showings or security of listed property.

Article 20.16

A Participant shall cause to be placed on his or her VOW a notice indicating that the MLS listing information displayed on the VOW is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed accurate by the MLS. A Participant’s VOW may include other appropriate disclaimers necessary to protect the Participant and/or the MLS from liability.

Article 20.17

A Participant shall limit the number of listings that a Registrant may view, retrieve, or download to not more than 5,000 in any combination of statuses in response to any inquiry.

Article 20.18

A Participant shall require that Registrants’ passwords be reconfirmed or changed every ninety (90) days.

Article 20.19

A Participant may display advertising and the identification of other entities (“co-branding’) on any VOW the Participant operates or that is operated on his or her behalf.  However, a Participant may not display on any such VOW deceptive or misleading advertising or co-branding.  For purposes of this Section, co-branding will be presumed not to be deceptive or misleading if the Participant’s logo and contact information (or that of at least one Participant, in the case of a VOW established and operated on behalf of more than one Participant) is displayed in immediate conjunction with that of every other party, and the logo and contact information of all Participants displayed on the VOW is as large as the logo of the AVP and larger than that of any third party.

Article 20.20

A Participant shall cause any listing displayed on his or her VOW that is obtained from other sources, including from another MLS or from a broker not participating in the MLS, to identify the source of the listing

Article 20.21

A Participant shall cause any listing displayed on his or her VOW obtained from other sources, including from another MLS or from a broker not participating in the MLS, to be searched separately from listings in the MLS.

Article 20.22

Participants and the AVPs operating VOWs on their behalf must execute the license agreement required by the MLS.

Article 20.23

Where an owner(s) of record affirmatively directs their listing broker to withhold either the owner(s) of record listing or the address of the owner(s) of record listing from display on the Internet, a copy of the owner(s) of record affirmative direction shall be made available to the MLS within two days excluding weekends and federally recognized holidays.

Article 20.24

A participant shall cause any listing that is displayed on his or her VOW to identify the name of the listing firm and the listing broker or agent in a readily visible color, in a reasonably prominent location, and in typeface not smaller than the median typeface used in the display of the listing data. (Adopted 9/2011)

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