Ruling will make an impact

Last week, an important case was decided in federal court that will impact multiple listing exchanges across the country.

A federal district court in Florida awarded $2.7 million to the Key West Association of Realtors after deciding on a case involving copyright infringement by Robert Allen. Since 2007, Mr. Allen had operated websites that presented information, data and images reproduced from the Key West Association of Realtors’ Multiple Listing Service (MLS) even though he was not supposed to.

To stop this, the Key West MLS filed a lawsuit against Mr. Allen in 2011. He was not a member of the association and did not obtain a license to copy or display the content of the Key West MLS database. The Key West MLS, through counsel, tried a “cease and desist” order  but Mr. Allen chose to continue taking the information and ignored the order.

This ruling could well have an impact beyond Florida because there are other cases being litigated across the country with providers of websites using MLS information and databases without having the license to do so. These cases involve allegations of unauthorized use of MLS listings and images on their websites to generate buyer referrals resulting in commissions.

The Florida ruling, which sets forth the maximum amount of statutory damages, was also intended to deter Copyright Act violations. In most, if not all, of these cases, infringers of MLS copyrights are getting the potential benefit of commissions from ill-gotten prospects.

Another problem is when a party (Realtor or non-Realtor) sends out mailings or maintains a website, blog or other online communication displaying another party’s listing without the agent or agency’s permission. The commentary on these listings frequently contains incomplete or outdated information.

Websites have become a source of information for prospective buyers, and frequently non-authorized websites are not up to date on the status of listings (i.e. properties having gone under contract), which ends up doing a disservice to both the seller and the potential buyer.

Renters to buyers

Switching gears, 90% of renters today say they expect to buy a home in the future. The majority of these renters fear they may not qualify for a mortgage given current stringent underwriting policies, according to a recent Fannie Mae Survey. Of those wishing to purchase a home, 42% don’t believe they will be in a financial position until at least five years from now.

The majority of renters are taking steps to improve their financial situation and are also willing to purchase a less expensive home. Approximately, 25% of renters said that if they did not qualify for a mortgage, they would stop looking for a home.

There has been a shift towards renting as indicated by the strong growth in multi-family property construction and investor interest in single-family rental properties. That same survey indicated that renters still want to own a home for privacy, security and raising a family. The strength of the economy, especially employment and real income growth coupled with favorable credit policies, also determines the conversion of renters to homeowners.

 

Mary Ann Clark is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker at 177 West Putnam Avenue in Greenwich. Questions or comments may be emailed to [email protected]

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