Will the NAR Commission Lawsuit Settlement Change Real Estate Practices in St. Louis?

Since the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the plaintiffs in the following lawsuits—Christopher Moehrl v. The National Association of Realtors et al., Rhonda Burnett (originally Sitzer) v. The National Association of Realtors et al., Dawin Niel Umpa v. The National Association of Realtors, et al., and Don Gibson v. The National Association of Realtors—reached a settlement agreement on March 15, 2024, which is still pending court approval and thus preliminary at this point, the topic has dominated industry conversations. The focus of these lawsuits on buyer’s agent commissions has attracted more media attention since mid-March than it seems to have received in the over 40 years I’ve been in the business before that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all this attention is bad. In fact, I believe it is beneficial. I’ve long advocated for educating consumers, feeling that the more home buyers and sellers know, the better decisions they can make. This is why I’m rapidly approaching the milestone of 3,000 articles on the topic of real estate in St. Louis on this site.

Now, I don’t do this solely for altruistic reasons; sharing the information and knowledge I’ve gained either through experience or research is also self-serving. As a broker-owner of MORE, REALTORS®, I’ve put forth just as much effort in sharing knowledge with our agents, and I am blessed to be surrounded by real estate professionals who are as eager as I am to increase their knowledge and hone their skills to better serve clients. Here’s the reward for me: informed and knowledgeable consumers seek out better and more professional agents, like the ones we’re in business with, creating a win-win situation.
Having said all that, while the attention from the media is beneficial, unfortunately, there is a lot of incorrect information out there and assertions being made that don’t seem to be based on facts, but rather on opinion. Oh yes, I have opinions too, plenty of them, many of which are shared on this site, but to the extent possible, I try to base them on facts and include the sources of my opinions.


Supreme Court Affirms Property Rights in SHEETZ v. COUNTY OF EL DORADO

The Supreme Court has rendered a unanimous decision in the landmark case SHEETZ v. COUNTY OF EL DORADO, involving petitioner George Sheetz and the imposition of a traffic impact fee by El Dorado County, California. The key points of the decision are as follows:

Background: George Sheetz was mandated to pay a $23,420 traffic impact fee as a condition for obtaining a residential building permit, which he contested as an unlawful exaction under the Takings Clause.

Court’s Decision: The Supreme Court, in an opinion delivered by Justice Barrett, vacated the ruling of the California Court of Appeal. The decision clarified that the Takings Clause does not differentiate between legislative and administrative land-use permit conditions, reinforcing property rights protections against arbitrary government exactions.

Legal Principles Invoked: The Court applied the tests from Nollan v. California Coastal Comm’n and Dolan v. City of Tigard, emphasizing that permit conditions must both have an “essential nexus” to the government’s land-use interest and be “roughly proportional” to the impacts of the proposed development.

Impact and Precedent: The ruling underscores the necessity for governmental authorities, whether legislative or administrative, to adhere strictly to constitutional principles when imposing conditions on building permits. This decision is a significant affirmation of property rights, setting a precedent that both legislative and administrative exactions are subject to the same constitutional scrutiny.

This decision marks a critical juncture in property law, reaffirming the Supreme Court’s commitment to protecting individual property rights against overreach by local governments.


Supreme Court Decision: SHEETZ v. COUNTY OF EL DORADO

(Click below to view the entire decision)

Supreme Court Decision: SHEETZ v. COUNTY OF EL DORADO

Will MLS Access Be Untethered from REALTOR Membership?

In the wake of recent legal developments, including a proposed settlement by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in March addressing buyer agent commissions, the real estate industry finds itself at another critical juncture. This time, attention turns to a lawsuit spotlighted in my article from a week ago, “New Lawsuit Against NAR Spotlights Tying of MLS Access to Realtor Membership in Ongoing Commission Debate“, which challenges the longstanding practice of tying MLS access to Realtor association membership. Unlike the NAR settlement that focused on commission structures, this new legal action delves into the exclusivity of market information access, a matter that has long spurred debate and litigation.

A Recurring Theme in Real Estate Litigation

The intertwining of Realtor association membership and MLS access has been a contentious issue, sparking several lawsuits over the years. This relationship, critics argue, creates barriers to competition and innovation in the real estate market.

Significant Legal Precedents

A pivotal moment in this ongoing discourse was the “Thompson v. Metropolitan Multi-List, Inc. Lawsuit,” where the 11th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991 ruled against restricting MLS access to Realtor members in Georgia. This case set a significant precedent, affirming that such practices could violate federal antitrust laws if the MLS wielded “market power” in the relevant geographic market.

Further complicating the landscape, California courts in the late 1970s found similar restrictions in violation of state antitrust statutes, thereby requiring Realtor associations in the state to open their MLS to non-members.

Looking Ahead

As the real estate industry continues to evolve, the relationship between REALTOR® associations and MLS access remains a focal point for legal scrutiny and industry reform. The implications of these legal battles extend beyond the courtroom, potentially shaping the future of real estate transactions, market competition, and consumer choice.

While the NAR settlement and recent lawsuits highlight different facets of the industry’s challenges, they collectively underscore a broader call for transparency, fairness, and innovation in real estate practices.

Conclusion

The dialogue surrounding MLS access and REALTOR® association membership is far from concluded. As legal actions continue to unfold, stakeholders across the real estate spectrum must remain vigilant and adaptable to the changing regulatory and business environment.  At MORE, REALTORS®, we’re keenly aware of these potential shifts and are proactively strategizing to ensure our agents are well-positioned to navigate any changes that may arise. Our focus remains steadfast on providing exceptional service to our clients, irrespective of the evolving industry dynamics. As always, we’re committed to transparency, adaptability, and unwavering professionalism.

 

DOJ Delivers Regulatory Blow to NAR: Court Reopens Antitrust Investigation

In a significant turn of events that has captured the attention of homebuyers, homesellers, and real estate professionals nationwide, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has delivered a landmark judgment that underscores the intricate balance between regulatory oversight and the operational freedoms of real estate associations. This case, National Association of Realtors (NAR) versus United States of America, et al., centers on the alleged anticompetitive practices within the real estate industry, specifically scrutinizing the policies implemented by NAR.

The Department of Justice (DOJ), through its Antitrust Division, initiated an investigation into NAR’s policies, which culminated in a settlement in November 2020. This settlement aimed to address four out of six policies identified by the DOJ as potentially anticompetitive. Crucially, it also included the issuance of a closing letter by the DOJ, indicating the closure of its investigation into two key NAR policies: the “Clear Cooperation Policy” and the “Participation Rule.” These policies relate to the operation of multiple-listing services (MLSs) and the commission structure within real estate transactions, respectively.

However, in a dramatic shift, the DOJ reopened its investigation into these policies in July 2021, leading to a legal challenge by NAR. NAR argued that the DOJ’s action breached the settlement agreement, which, in their view, included an implicit assurance against reopening the investigation into the specified policies.

The Appeals Court, in its decision, highlighted the legal nuances of the settlement agreement and the scope of the DOJ’s commitments. The court concluded that the settlement did not preclude the DOJ from reopening its investigation. This decision not only emphasizes the DOJ’s ongoing authority to regulate and scrutinize industry practices for anticompetitive behavior but also signals to real estate professionals the importance of adaptive compliance with evolving regulatory landscapes.

This ruling carries profound implications for the real estate industry, reinforcing the principle that regulatory oversight is a dynamic process, subject to revision and reassessment in light of new information or changing circumstances. For homebuyers and homesellers, the decision underscores the government’s commitment to ensuring fair and competitive practices within the real estate market, aiming to protect consumer interests and promote market transparency.


 

United States Court of Appeals Judgement –  NAR vs United States of America

(click on image below to access entire judgment) 

United States Court of Appeals Judgement -  NAR vs United States of America

New Lawsuit Against NAR Spotlights Tying of MLS Access to Realtor Membership in Ongoing Commission Debate

In the evolving landscape of real estate litigation, a fresh lawsuit filed by homeowner Hao Zhe Wang against the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and several major real estate brokerage firms introduces a nuanced critique of industry practices. Distinguishing itself from prior actions, this case zeroes in on the contentious policy requiring real estate agents to be NAR members in order to access Multiple Listing Services (MLS), a stipulation the plaintiff contends unfairly influences commission structures and inflates transaction costs.

The Core Allegations:

At the heart of Wang’s lawsuit is an objection to how MLS access — a critical tool for buying and selling properties — is tied to membership in the NAR. This arrangement, according to the lawsuit, perpetuates a non-competitive environment where commission rates are kept uniformly high due to lack of market-driven pricing. This system, the plaintiff argues, indirectly forces buyers to absorb the cost of buyer’s agent commissions, which are embedded in home purchase prices, in violation of antitrust laws.

Legal Objectives:

  • Seeking Class Action: The lawsuit aims to achieve class action status, offering representation to a broad swath of home buyers potentially affected by the described practices.
  • Injunctive Relief and Damages: Beyond seeking damages for alleged overpayments, the complaint calls for judicial intervention to prohibit the continuation of tying MLS access to NAR membership, alongside the existing commission practices.

Industry Implications:

This lawsuit adds another layer to the ongoing discourse on real estate commission models, specifically targeting the structures that underpin agent access to essential market information. By challenging the linkage of MLS access to NAR membership, the case prompts a reevaluation of how such policies impact competition, pricing, and ultimately, consumer choice.

Reflecting on the Bigger Picture:

From an insider perspective, this case illuminates the complex interplay between professional associations, access to market information, and how commissions are structured. It calls into question whether current practices best serve the market’s needs or if they inadvertently constrain competition and innovation. As the real estate industry continues to grapple with these issues, the outcome of this lawsuit could have significant repercussions, potentially catalyzing shifts towards more transparent and consumer-friendly practices.


Hao Zhe Wang v The National Association of REALTORS®

(click below to view the entire complaint)

Court Battle Pits Consumer Savings Against DOJ Objections

The Council of Multiple Listing Services (CMLS), representing over 200 Multiple Listing Services nationwide, has filed a brief supporting the settlement reached between the parties in the lawsuit against MLS Property Information Network (MLS PIN). While this is not the settlement announced last week by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), it involves one of the several lawsuits tied to the NAR settlement.

CMLS filed their brief in response to the one filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in February, which opposed the MLS PIN settlement, arguing that it did not go far enough to change existing practices to lower commissions and increase competition. In their brief, CMLS points to data showing that a similar rule change adopted by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) in 2019 saved homebuyers an average of $1,000 per transaction by reducing buyer agent commissions.

The DOJ has opposed the MLS PIN settlement, asserting that it would not meaningfully benefit consumers. CMLS contends that the DOJ’s analysis is flawed and that its preferred solution – an outright ban on buyer agent compensation – could disrupt the real estate market and harm consumers.

It is doubtful that the judge will make a ruling in the MLS PIN case while the NAR settlement is pending. However, the briefs filed by the DOJ and CMLS in the MLS PIN lawsuit may have an impact on the decision regarding the NAR settlement.


CMLS Amicus Brief

(click to view entire brief)

CMLS Amicus Brief

NAR and MBA Seek Assurance from Fannie Mae and HUD on Commission Practices to Protect Homebuyers

One of the issues receiving significant attention following the announcement of the REALTOR® commission suit settlement is the topic of buyer commissions, specifically regarding whether a buyer has to pay them and how lenders will treat the commissions.

In a recent letter to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, NAR and MBA sought confirmation on the treatment of buyer agent commissions following a proposed settlement agreement in the Burnett et al and Moehrl et al cases.

What does this mean for homebuyers? Under the settlement, cooperative commissions will no longer be displayed on Multiple Listing Services (MLS), but listing brokers and sellers will still be able to offer compensation for buyer broker services through other means. Additionally, the settlement does not prohibit home sellers from paying buyer agent commissions directly.

NAR and MBA believe that FHA and Government-Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) policies should continue to exclude seller or listing agent payments of buyer agents’ commissions from Interested Party Contributions (IPCs). IPCs are concessions from the seller to the buyer for items traditionally paid by the buyer, such as loan closing costs or rate buy-downs. Maintaining this practice is essential to ensure that the flow of mortgage capital to homebuyers remains uninterrupted.

As a homeowner or potential buyer, it’s important to stay informed about these developments and how they may impact your buying or selling process. NAR and MBA have requested confirmation from the FHFA, FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac as soon as possible to prevent any confusion and potential disruptions that may cost you money or even jeopardize your home purchase.


 

The MBA and NAR Letter

(click to view entire letter)

The MBA and NAR Letter 

Important Alert for St. Louis Home Sellers: Are You Eligible for a Settlement Claim in the Recent NAR Antitrust Litigation?

Previously, I wrote about the settlement reached by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) aiming to resolve litigation concerning alleged anticompetitive practices, potentially leading to financial compensation for certain home sellers in St. Louis and beyond. This litigation, which centers on claims of inflated commission rates, could see a transformative resolution pending court approval expected by summer. If approved by the court, this settlement, alongside those reached with other corporate defendants like RE/MAX, Keller Williams, Realogy, and Compass, would provide eligible home sellers a pathway to claim financial redress for the commissions paid during the specified periods.

Eligibility Criteria and Key Details:

Moehrl v. NAR Eligibility:

  • Sold a home between March 6, 2015, and December 31, 2020.
  • Utilized a real estate agent or broker affiliated with specific defendants, including Keller Williams, RE/MAX, and Anywhere Real Estate, among others.
  • Paid a commission for the sale listed on a covered Multiple Listing Service (MLS) in certain areas.
  • Filing Deadline: The deadline to submit a claim is May 9, 2025.

Burnett et al. v. NAR Eligibility:

  • Sold a home within the eligible date range specified in the Long Form Notices.
  • Listed the sold home on an MLS in any part of the United States.
  • Paid a commission to any real estate brokerage in connection with the sale.
  • Not restricted to homes sold using agents from Anywhere, RE/MAX, or Keller Williams.
  • Filing Deadline: The deadline to submit a claim is May 9, 2025.

Next Steps for Eligible Home Sellers:

  • Verify Eligibility: Sellers should review the detailed eligibility criteria on the settlement websites to determine if their home sale qualifies.
  • Submit a Claim: To be considered for a payment, eligible sellers must file a claim by the May 9, 2025 deadline. Claim forms are accessible by clicking the links below:
  • Consider Opting Out or Objecting: If you wish to opt out of the settlement, the deadline to opt-out or object to the settlements is April 13, 2024.


NAR’s $418 Million Antitrust Settlement: Will It Face the Same DOJ Scrutiny as MLS PIN Deal?

NAR Sitzet Moerhl Commission SettlementLast week, I wrote an article about the settlement reached by the National Association of REALTORS® in pending litigation concerning buyer agency compensation. This includes the “Sitzer” (now Burnett), “Moehrl,” and “MLS PIN” suits, among others. As mentioned, this is an early stage in the process; the settlement agreement, although agreed upon by the parties involved, has not yet been filed with the court. Given these are large class action lawsuits alleging antitrust violations, numerous hurdles must be overcome. These could necessitate changes to the settlement terms on the path to court approval—if the court approves it at all.

Hurdles include the court holding a fairness hearing to assess if the proposed settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate for class members. This hearing allows class members to express objections and concerns. Moreover, antitrust class action lawsuits like this one, which impact market competition and consumer protection, prompt the court to consider broader public interest implications when approving settlements. This attention often draws input from professional associations, consumer organizations, and, as seen in the MLS PIN suit, the United States, giving their opinion on the settlement’s sufficiency.

Ultimately, the decision rests with the judge, who will consider all these aspects.

I should have led with this, but I am not an attorney, and this is not legal advice. As a real estate broker with over four decades in the residential real estate industry, I have a keen interest in the legal facets of our business and the issues at hand, closely following these cases since 2019. I’m a staunch advocate for transparency and education for real estate professionals, clients, and everyone involved. The more accurate knowledge consumers have about buying and selling a home, the better choices they can make. This is especially true when selecting a real estate agent, as not all are created equal.

Back to the matter at hand.

What will the DOJ say about the NAR Settlement?

Assuming the Department of Justice files an amicus brief in this case, as they did with MLS PIN—a safe assumption, in my view—it’s intriguing to speculate on their comments regarding this settlement. While I lack a crystal ball or insider information, considering the DOJ’s Statement of Interest filed on February 15, 2024, in Nosalek V. MLS Property Information Network (MLS PIN), and assuming their opinion hasn’t shifted in the last five weeks, offers a logical foundation for analysis.

I sought an objective analysis from my trusty AI Assistant, which, for the sake of this discussion, is an outstanding attorney specializing in antitrust law (or at least that is what I’ve told it to think of itself as). Applying the DOJ’s recent statement to this settlement, here’s what it suggests the DOJ might say:

  • Inadequate Address of Core Antitrust Concerns: The settlement’s proposed rule changes fail to resolve the fundamental antitrust issues raised in the complaint fully. While allowing $0 cooperative compensation offers and requiring commission negotiation disclosures, the continued practice of blanket unilateral compensation offers to buyer brokers by sellers and listing brokers could perpetuate steering risks and obstruct genuine price competition.
  • Broad Release of Potential Antitrust Claims: The extensive release of antitrust claims against a wide range of parties, including NAR, REALTOR® associations, MLSs, and individual brokers and agents, is concerning. Given the settlement’s limited injunctive relief, this broad release might inadequately serve class members.
  • Insufficient Monetary Relief: The $418 million settlement fund, potentially inadequate for the damages at issue, may not ensure compensation for class members after litigation expenses and attorney’s fees. The settlement lacks a clear mechanism for maximizing class member payouts.
  • Potential Chilling Effect on Future Antitrust Challenges: The settlement could deter or complicate future anticompetitive practice challenges by immunizing modified rules from further scrutiny, making subsequent lawsuits more difficult.
  • Comparison to MLS PIN Settlement: Despite more extensive practice changes than the MLS PIN agreement, the settlement doesn’t effectively address core antitrust concerns, marginally improving over the MLS PIN agreement.

In conclusion, despite offering more monetary relief and practice changes than the MLS PIN agreement, the settlement inadequately addresses fundamental antitrust issues. The court must weigh whether the settlement’s limited benefits justify the broad release of claims and the potential chilling effect on future antitrust enforcement. As in the MLS PIN case, a more effective remedy might prohibit the seller-paid buyer broker commission model, fostering genuine market competition.

This is all based on publicly available information. We must wait to see the DOJ’s stance and whether the judge deems the settlement adequate.

Could the REALTOR Settlement Bring More Transparency to St. Louis Real Estate?

Yesterday, I reported on the groundbreaking settlement proposed by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to resolve the ongoing litigation surrounding broker commissions. Today, I want to dive deeper into the specifics of this settlement agreement and what it means for homeowners and real estate professionals here in the St. Louis area.

Key Points of the NAR Settlement Agreement

  • Broad Coverage: The settlement class is expansive, including home sellers who listed properties on MLSs anywhere in the U.S. during specified date ranges and paid a commission to any brokerage. For the St. Louis region, sellers are covered if they sold homes between October 31, 2018, and the date of the official Class Notice.
  • Released Parties: The settlement releases a wide range of parties from future claims related to broker commissions, including NAR, REALTOR associations, and MLSs that adhere to the required practice changes. Brokerages with 2022 transaction volumes under $2 billion are also released if they comply with the new rules.
  • Practice Changes: The agreement mandates significant shifts in industry practices, including:
    • “eliminate and prohibit any requirement by the National Association of REALTORS®, REALTOR® MLS, or Member Boards that listing brokers or sellers must make offers of compensation to buyer brokers or other buyer representatives (either directly or through buyers), and eliminate and prohibit any requirement that such offers, if made, must be blanket, unconditional, or unilateral;”
    • “prohibit REALTOR® MLS Participants, subscribers, other real estate brokers, other real estate agents, and their sellers from (a) making offers of compensation on the MLS to buyer brokers or other buyer representatives (either directly or through buyers) or (b) requiring that offers of compensation be made on the MLS to buyer brokers or other buyer representatives (either directly or through buyers);”
    • “require that REALTOR® MLS Participants who work with buyers enter into written agreements with their buyer clients that specify the broker compensation and how it will be paid, including if it will be paid by the buyer;”
    • “require that REALTOR® MLSs and REALTOR® MLS Participants provide, with any MLS listings that include a listing broker’s offer of compensation to a buyer broker or other buyer representative (either directly or through buyers), (i) disclosure as to the amount of that offer of compensation and (ii) a searchable field that displays buyer broker compensation offers;”
    • “prohibit REALTOR® MLSs, REALTOR® MLS Participants, and REALTOR® Member Boards from taking any adverse action against any Person making offers of compensation to buyer brokers at any price, or no price, either on or off the MLS;”
  • Financial Payout: NAR will pay a total of $418 million over four years to resolve the claims, with the first payment of $5 million due within 30 days of preliminary approval of the settlement. What This Means for St. Louis

What This Means for St. Louis
For homeowners in the St. Louis area, this settlement could bring more transparency to the commission structure when selling a home. By removing the requirement for listing brokers to offer buyer broker compensation through the MLS, the agreement aims to give sellers more control over how commissions are negotiated and paid.

Real estate agents and brokerages in our region will need to adapt to these changes, focusing on educating clients about compensation options and ensuring compliance with the new rules. At MORE, REALTORS®, we’ve been preparing for these shifts and are ready to guide our clients through the evolving landscape.

The full text of the NAR settlement agreement can be found below. As always, I’ll continue to keep you informed about how these developments impact our local market.


The Proposed NAR Settlement Agreement

(click on image to view entire agreement)

The Proposed NAR Settlement Agreement

NAR to Settle Nationwide Litigation on Broker Commissions, Introduces Industry-Wide Changes

Kevin Sears, NAR President

Kevin Sears, NAR President

This morning, Kevin Sears, President of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), unveiled a proposed settlement designed to bring to a close the contentious litigation surrounding broker commissions, a move that could significantly alter the landscape of the real estate industry. This development comes on the heels of the Sitzer-Burnett verdict, which cast the traditional practices of real estate professionals, particularly those concerning hiring and compensation methods, into the spotlight, sparking a series of lawsuits and raising questions about the future of the industry.

A Closer Look at the Proposed Settlement

The core aim of the proposed settlement is to resolve the ongoing litigation against NAR, its members, and associated real estate entities by addressing the claims related to broker commissions. Key components of the settlement include:

  • Liability Release: More than one million NAR members, along with various real estate entities, will be absolved from liability for claims akin to those highlighted in the lawsuits.
  • Compensation Offers: A pivotal change involves the elimination of compensation offers from MLS listings, a rule set to take effect in mid-July 2024.
  • Written Agreements: Starting mid-July 2024, MLS participants working with buyers will be required to engage through written representation agreements.
  • Financial Implications: NAR has committed to paying $418 million over a four-year span, a significant financial undertaking that will not result in an increase in the 2024 membership dues according to the release. (Noted is the fact they didn’t commit to no increases as a result beyond 2024)

Kevin Sears Weighs In

Sears articulated the objectives of the settlement, stating, “This proposed settlement achieves our goals to reduce strain on our members and chart a path forward for the industry.” He further emphasized the industry’s resilience and adaptability, expressing confidence that the agreement “allows us to move forward, preserving the right to real property for all.”

MORE, REALTORS® Prepared for the Future

Yes, this might come off as a shameless plug, but it would be a disservice not to mention how myself, alongside our brokerage’s leadership team, brokers, and agents, have been proactively preparing for the anticipated changes. We’ve delved deep into the issues raised by these lawsuits, identifying practices in need of rectification, regardless of the legal outcomes. Thus, while the shift away from MLS compensation offerings may catch many off guard, our team stands ready. We’re equipped to demystify the compensation process for our clients transparently, dedicating our focus to their needs. Discover more about our exceptional team at MORERealtors.com.

The Proposed NAR Settlement Agreement

(click on image to view entire agreement)

The Proposed NAR Settlement Agreement

Controversy Surrounds Cash for 40-Year Listing Rights Contracts in St. Louis Real Estate Market

Attorney General Andrew Bailey vs MV RealtyMV Realty Holdings, LLC, a Florida-based real estate company, has recently come under scrutiny for alleged wrongdoing and is currently facing bankruptcy proceedings. The company, which offers homeowners cash in exchange for exclusive rights to list their properties for sale for purportedly a period that lasts forty (40) years, has been accused of deceptive practices and unfair treatment of its clients, including homeowners in Missouri and the St. Louis area.

Here in Missouri, MV Realty has faced legal action from Missouri State Attorney General, Andrew Bailey who, earlier this year, filed suit against MV Realty “for its deceptive practices in marketing its services to Missouri homeowners.”  In a press release about this suit, Attorney General Bailey stated “I will enforce the laws as written and defend innocent Missourians from being ripped off” and the he was “proud of the work done by our Consumer Protection Unit to obtain justice for victims in this case.”

The suit filed by Attorney General Bailey alleges that “MV Realty, in violation of Missouri law, paid homeowners a tiny percentage of the value of their homes in exchange for a promise that the homeowner would use MV Realty as their brokers when they sold their homes.”  Attorney General Bailey’s statement about the suit filed goes on to to state that “the petition further alleges that MV Realty failed to tell the homeowners that the contract would be enforceable against their heirs after their death, that the contract bound them for 40 years, and that it would result in a lien being placed on their homes. In some instances, MV Realty falsely told homeowners that MV Realty would not place a lien on their homes, and that they would never have to pay the money back.”

Attorney General Bailey is asking the court to order that the liens be removed, that the agreements are void and unenforceable and to provide restitution to consumers who have been charged unlawful cancellation penalties and then finally to order that MV Realty pay fines and penalties, including $213 million in penalties for calling homeowners on the No Call list.

MV Realty operated in several states and appears to have complaints mounting in many of them from various parties.  In late 2022 the Florida Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against MV Realty, accusing the company of violating the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. The lawsuit sought to enjoin MV Realty from engaging in further deceptive practices and to obtain restitution for affected homeowners.

As legal challenges and claims against MV Realty accumulated, MV Realty Holdings and approximately two dozen affiliated companies sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September 2023. This move automatically initiates a “stay” on existing lawsuits and claims, effectively pausing them. These actions remain on hold until the bankruptcy court either grants relief from the stay or the bankruptcy case concludes through dismissal or discharge. Currently, with the bankruptcy cases still active, proceedings are largely at a standstill. However, indications suggest the bankruptcy court may soon make further developments or progress.

Homeowners, including those in the St. Louis area, who entered agreements with MV Realty, face uncertainty regarding their property liens and seek clarity on their standing as the legal and bankruptcy proceedings progress.

The purpose of sharing this information is to educate homeowners on the importance of thoroughly understanding any agreements concerning their homes, advocating for informed decision-making with the support of qualified professionals. In our real estate practice at MORE, REALTORS®, we emphasize education and leverage a network of trusted professionals to guide homeowners, reflecting our commitment to looking out for our clients best interest and to equipping our clients to make informed decisions.

Facing New Rules: NAR and DOJ Clash Over Buyer’s Agent Commission Policies – What It Means for You

Kevin Sears,
2024 NAR President

At a real estate conference in Boston on February 1, 2024, NAR President Kevin Sears addressed a pressing issue facing the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and its members. Sears candidly discussed the aftermath of a $5.4 billion verdict against NAR, drawing parallels to a sports scenario to highlight the disappointment of a loss despite believing in the righteousness of their policy and actions. He emphasized the importance of moving forward, focusing on the legal appeals process and the ongoing challenges with the Department of Justice (DOJ), which has been a persistent adversary for NAR.

Sears detailed the history of NAR’s interactions with the DOJ, including a settled agreement in 2020, which the DOJ later contested, leading to further legal battles. He highlighted a specific case involving MLS Property Information Network (MLS PIN) in Massachusetts, which faced a “copycat lawsuit” and encountered DOJ objections to settlement agreements, underscoring the DOJ’s significant influence on the real estate industry’s operations.

Kevin Sears provided a comprehensive overview of the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) complex and ongoing interactions with the Department of Justice (DOJ), painting a picture of an enduring legal struggle that has deep implications for the real estate industry. He began by recounting a pivotal moment in 2020 when NAR reached a settlement agreement with the DOJ, a moment that seemed to mark the beginning of a resolution to their disputes. However, this sense of resolution was short-lived as the DOJ later contested the terms of the agreement, reigniting a series of legal challenges that have since persisted.

Sears’ narrative then shifted focus to a more recent and illustrative example of these challenges: the case involving the MLS Property Information Network (MLS PIN) in Massachusetts. This particular case, described by Sears as a “copycat lawsuit,” mirrored the broader issues at stake between NAR and the DOJ. The lawsuit led to a proposed settlement agreement between MLS PIN and the plaintiff’s attorneys, which, in a turn of events characteristic of the DOJ’s recent interventions, faced objections from the DOJ. The federal department’s refusal to endorse the settlement underscored its readiness to closely scrutinize and influence the outcomes of legal disputes in the real estate sector.

Through these examples, Sears emphasized the DOJ’s significant and active role in shaping the operational landscape of the real estate industry. He highlighted the DOJ’s apparent commitment to altering traditional practices within the industry, particularly those related to the compensation of buyer’s agents through commissions offered by sellers. This ongoing legal saga between NAR, its members, and the DOJ not only reflects the complexities of antitrust law in real estate but also signals a potentially transformative period for industry practices and professional relationships.


 

Key Points Made by Kevin Sears:

  • Acknowledged the $5.4 billion verdict against NAR, emphasizing the need to move forward through legal appeals and post-trial motions.
  • Highlighted the longstanding challenges with the DOJ, including a contested settlement and ongoing legal disputes.
  • Discussed the specifics of a lawsuit involving MLS PIN in Massachusetts, illustrating the DOJ’s active role in scrutinizing industry practices and settlements.
  • Stressed the importance of adapting to changes in the real estate industry, particularly regarding how businesses operate and how realtors are compensated.
  • Urged the audience to consider the future of the industry and the necessity of embracing change, whether willingly or as a result of external pressures.

DOJ Suggests Ending Seller-Paid Buyer Agent Commissions

Yesterday, the Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest  concerning the Nosalek v. MLS PIN case.  In the class action lawsuit Nosalek v. MLS Property Information Network, Inc., plaintiffs allege that mandatory commission agreements for buyer-brokers on the MLS system are anticompetitive, leading to artificially inflated commission rates for sellers, in violation of antitrust laws.  Previously, a settlement was reached by the parties in the lawsuit, but the DOJ intervened, asking the court to hear the views of the United States before deciding whether to approve the settlement.  This statement of interest was what the DOJ asked the court to wait for.

In the Statement of Interest, the Department of Justice conducts a critical examination of buyer agent commissions, suggesting that a transformative approach to real estate transactions is needed. The Department critiques the current practice of seller-offered commissions to buyer brokers for maintaining artificially high fees and stifling competition. It does not think the proposed changes in the settlement go far enough, stating, “as long as sellers can make buyer-broker commission offers, they will continue to offer ‘customary’ commissions out of fear that buyer brokers will direct buyers away from listings with lower commissions.” Their alternative? The DOJ states, “the parties could propose an injunction that would prohibit sellers from making commission offers to buyer brokers at all. That injunction would promote competition by empowering buyers to negotiate directly with their own brokers.” Ah, what I’ve been predicting for some time now, that a real estate agent will only be able to be paid by their client.

While this case is in Massachusetts and does not directly impact the St. Louis real estate industry, industry leaders throughout the country have been anxiously monitoring the suit to get a better idea of what the DOJ is going to want from the industry as a whole, which I think we clearly see with this filing.


 

Statement of Interest of The United States – Nosalek v MLS PIN


Real Estate’s Game Changer: Decoding the Latest Twists in the Sitzer Saga

Since the suit was first filed in 2019, I’ve been following the the Sitzer v. National Association of REALTORS® case closely and sharing my thoughts on the potential impact it could have on the real estate industry, as well as on home buyers and sellers. This task has been far from dull, as the litigation has been filled with action, especially since the Missouri jury’s ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in October. The past week has seen an increase in legal activity from the defendants, making the situation even more intense. Below is a breakdown of the latest events and their implications, from my perspective (bear in mind, I’m not an attorney, just a real estate broker):


Key Motions Filed:

  • National Association of Realtors Seeks a New Trial: This motion contests the fairness of the original trial, highlighting potential procedural and evidentiary errors that might have skewed the jury’s decision.
  • Calls for Judgment as a Matter of Law: Various defendants, including Keller Williams and BHH Affiliates, have challenged the verdict based on the argument that it contradicts the evidence presented. They point to possible legal oversights, such as flawed jury instructions.
  • Questioning the Class Action Status: A notable move by BHH Affiliates and HomeServices of America, this motion disputes the class action’s suitability, arguing that individual differences overshadow commonalities crucial in such lawsuits.

Analyzing the Legal Landscape:

  • The Frequency of Post-Verdict Motions: In complex cases like this, it’s quite typical for defendants to pursue motions for a new trial or a judgment reversal. These legal steps, while common, underscore the high stakes involved, especially in a sector as impactful as real estate.
  • Prospects of These Motions: Historically, the success of such motions varies. They can occasionally lead to new trials or judgment alterations. However, overturning a jury’s decision is often a challenging hill to climb, given the U.S. legal system’s respect for jury findings. These motions are more likely precursors to an appeal.
  • Real Estate Industry at a Crossroads: The decisions on these motions are critical. Their outcomes could prompt significant changes in how real estate transactions are conducted, especially regarding agent commissions and competitive practices.

What Does This Mean for Home Buyers and Sellers?

Now, you might be wondering, “All this legal talk is great, but how does it affect me as a home buyer or seller?” Well, I have some thoughts on that as well:

  • Changes in Commission Structures: The heart of the Sitzer case is about how real estate commissions are handled. Depending on the outcome, we might see a shift in how agents are paid. This could mean more flexibility or different options when it comes to commission rates.
  • Increased Transparency: The case also touches on transparency in real estate transactions. We could be looking at a future where there’s more clarity on how agents operate, which means you, as a buyer or seller, would have a clearer picture of what you’re getting into.
  • Potential for More Competitive Pricing: If the verdict leads to changes in how commissions are structured, this could open the door for more competitive pricing in the real estate market. It could mean better deals for buyers and more options for sellers.

In short, this trial isn’t just about big real estate companies; it’s about potentially changing the playing field for everyone involved in buying or selling a home. It’s about making sure that the process is fair and transparent for you, the consumer. So, stay tuned – the decisions made in this courtroom could be game-changers for how we buy and sell homes.

Compilation of Motions Filed In The Past Week in Sitzer v NAR

(click below to access the document containing all the motions filed)

Compilation of Motions Filed In The Past Week in Sitzer v NAR


 

Big Brokers Hit with New Antitrust Lawsuit Over Buyer Broker Commissions

The residential real estate industry is facing yet another antitrust lawsuit targeting the long-standing practice of home sellers paying the commissions of buyer’s agents. Filed on December 27th in Missouri federal court, Daniel Umpa v. National Association of Realtors alleges the NAR and large national brokerages like Compass and Keller Williams conspired to maintain inflated buyer agent commissions through anticompetitive practices.

This latest suit comes on the heels of the Department of Justice’s ongoing investigation into potentially anti-competitive industry practices related to real estate commissions and access to MLS listings. It also follows similar buyer broker commission lawsuits brought in the past two years by home sellers against NAR and large brokerages. The new complaint alleges the defendants worked together to enact NAR policies like the ‘Buyer Broker Commission Rule’ which required listing brokers to make blanket, non-negotiable commission offers to buyer brokers. This rule allegedly discourages lower commissions and impedes market competition to the detriment of home sellers.

If successful, the plaintiff seeks injunctive relief under antitrust laws forcing changes to current industry practices, as well as damages related to overcharges paid by class members stretching back to late 2019. With the DOJ investigation ongoing and buyer broker commissions under continued legal scrutiny, pressure mounts for transparency and reform in how real estate agents are compensated. Though the industry justifies maintaining the status quo to ensure access to listing data critical for buyers and sellers, critics argue new technologies make this argument increasingly dubious. One thing is clear – more antitrust litigation is brewing which could profoundly reshape residential brokerage.


Umpa vs The National Association of REALTORS, et al

(click on image to view entire complaint)

Umpa vs The National Association of REALTORS, et al

Is the REALTORS’ Clear Cooperation Policy Aiding Market Fairness or Fueling Legal Battles?

Recently, the real estate industry has found itself under increasing legal scrutiny, with multiple lawsuits challenging established norms. A critical point of debate is the REALTORS’ Clear Cooperation Policy. This policy mandates that within one business day of marketing a property to the public, agents must list the property on the MLS. While designed to promote transparency and cooperation among real estate professionals, it’s worth asking: Is this policy partly to blame for the industry’s legal challenges, or does it genuinely foster a fair and open market in compliance with the Sherman Antitrust Act?

The Sherman Antitrust Act, a cornerstone of U.S. antitrust law, prohibits any contract or combination that restrains trade. The Clear Cooperation Policy, by restricting agents’ freedom to market properties outside the MLS, potentially limits competition. Centralizing all listings within the MLS could be seen as creating a monopolistic environment, contrary to the principles of free trade the Sherman Act seeks to protect. On the other hand, proponents argue that the policy ensures equal access to property listings for all agents, thereby benefiting consumers by offering a comprehensive market view.

As legal battles unfold and regulatory bodies like the DOJ and FTC weigh in, the real estate industry awaits clarity. The coming months are crucial, and they will likely reveal whether the Clear Cooperation Policy aligns with the ethos of the Sherman Antitrust Act or contradicts it. As we navigate these complex legal waters, stay tuned to St Louis Real Estate News for the latest developments and insights. We’re committed to keeping you informed about how these critical issues will shape the future of real estate marketing and market fairness. Moreover, you can rely on the professional agents at MORE, REALTORS. They possess not only the knowledge and expertise to navigate through all the rules and regulations but also deliver exceptional results to their clients.


Highlights of the Clear Cooperation Policy

  • Mandatory MLS Listing: Properties must be listed on the MLS within one business day of public marketing.
  • Scope of Public Marketing: Includes flyers, yard signs, digital marketing, and more.
  • Office Exclusive Listings: Allows keeping listings off the MLS if not publicly marketed.
  • Filing Requirement: All exclusive listings must be filed with the MLS if publicly marketed.
  • Enforcement: Imposes fines and reporting mechanism for non-compliance.

Key Components of Sherman Antitrust Act Relevant to the Policy

  • Restriction on Trade: Prohibits practices that restrain trade or commerce.
  • Legal Consequences: Includes fines and imprisonment for violations.
  • Focus on Competition: Aims to maintain free and competitive markets.
  • Application to Real Estate: Includes practices affecting inter-state commerce.
  • Interpretation in Courts: Requires judicial determination on trade restraints.

NAR Aims to Dismiss Moehrl Suit: Summary Judgment Motion Marks Latest Turn in Landmark Real Estate Case

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, December 19, 2023, the Moehrl v. National Association of Realtors (NAR) lawsuit saw a flurry of activity.  Motions for summary judgment were filed by the remaining defendants, including the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), Keller Williams Realty, Inc., BHH Affiliates, LLC, The Long & Foster Companies, Inc., HSF Affiliates, LLC and HomeServices of America, Inc. Notably, two other defendants, Realogy (now known as Anywhere) and Re/Max, had previously reached a settlement agreement with the plaintiff, which is currently pending court approval.

With the exception of Keller Williams Realty, Inc., all of the real estate brokerage defendants jointly filed a single motion for summary judgment. In contrast, Keller Williams Realty, Inc. submitted their own separate motion, which, while distinct, shares similarities with the collective motion of the other brokerages in its arguments and legal stance.

  • The National Association of Realtors defended its model rules and policies, asserting they’re not conspiratorial and are instead standard practice in the industry, aiming to facilitate transparency and efficiency in real estate transactions.
  • Keller Williams Realty, Inc. focused on their lack of involvement in the alleged conspiracy, emphasizing no direct role in NAR’s Cooperative Compensation Rule.
  • BHH Affiliates, LLC, The Long & Foster Companies, Inc., HSF Affiliates, LLC, HomeServices of America, Inc. similarly argued for their non-participation in any actions related to the NAR rule they’re accused of conspiring to adopt.

As I’ve mentioned in many previous articles, this legal battle, along with other similar cases across the country, is poised to have significant implications for the real estate industry and profession. At the heart of these challenges lies a foundational method of conducting residential real estate transactions, including the compensation of agents (particularly buyer’s agents). Regardless of the outcomes of these lawsuits, the industry is set to undergo significant changes. This is partly due to the heightened attention these cases have attracted, which will likely lead to a better understanding of the transaction process by home buyers and sellers, as well as greater transparency, especially in terms of the roles and compensation of real estate agents involved. Personally, I believe these developments are positive. They will benefit dedicated, professional agents and their clients, and may disadvantage those who are underperforming or, frankly, should not be in the business in the first place.

Find complete information on this lawsuit as well as all the other related lawsuits as well as a wealth of information on the St Louis real estate market at the MORE Resource Center by clicking this link or the button below.


Missouri Supreme Court Overturns Bill Criminalizing Sleeping on State Lands

Yesterday, the Missouri Supreme Court issued a ruling striking down Missouri House Bill 1606 (2022), particularly section 67.2300, which sought to criminalize unauthorized sleeping and camping on state-owned lands, making it a class C misdemeanor. The Court found this section to be in violation of the Missouri Constitution’s single subject requirement.

In the decision, the Supreme Court emphasized that the inclusion of section 67.2300 introduced an impermissible additional subject—homelessness—into the bill, which was originally focused on political subdivisions. Justice Paul C. Wilson, writing for the Court, noted that the provisions of section 67.2300 “do not fairly relate to or have a natural connection with” the subject of political subdivisions, and instead relate to the different subject of homelessness. This divergence from the bill’s original purpose led to the conclusion that TAFP HB 1606, in its entirety, violated the single subject requirement of article III section 23 of the Missouri Constitution.


Missouri Supreme Court Opinion Issued December 19, 2023

(click on image below to access full opinion)

Missouri Supreme Court Opinion Issued December 19, 2023

 

Indications Lean Towards DOJ in NAR Legal Battle: Insights from Appellate Court’s Oral Arguments

In yet another pivotal moment for the real estate industry, oral arguments were made yesterday before a three-judge panel at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in the ongoing battle between the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ).   The panel, consisting of Circuit Judges Henderson, Walker, and Pan, will now deliberate and make a ruling in the future, a decision that could significantly impact the industry.

The case centers on NAR’s attempt to prevent the DOJ from reopening an investigation into the organization’s commission-sharing policies. The dispute revolves around a 2020 closure agreement, which NAR interprets as barring any future investigations. However, this interpretation faced scrutiny from the judges, particularly Judge Florence Pan, who questioned the permanence of the agreement.

Representing the DOJ, Frederick Liu argued that there was never an intention to indefinitely halt the investigation. He emphasized that during the negotiation process, the DOJ’s antitrust division did not make explicit commitments to end the probe permanently.

This legal showdown is crucial for NAR, an association with more than 1.5 million members. Just last month, NAR, along with other defendants, lost a nearly $1.8 Billion anti-trust lawsuit here in Missouri (Sitzer v NAR) and NAR is currently facing multiple other antitrust lawsuits, including a substantial class-action suit in Illinois, potentially leading to damages of $40 billion.

NAR’s attorney, Christopher Michel, stressed the significance of the closure agreement, arguing that reopening the investigation would render it meaningless. Judge Justin Walker, however, highlighted the inherent risk NAR took in depending on the continuity of the DOJ’s personnel after the election.

The decision by this appellate court will be closely watched, as it could herald significant changes in how real estate transactions are conducted, affecting agents, buyers, and sellers alike. Stay updated with St Louis Real Estate News for the latest on this critical legal development.


New Class Action Lawsuit Targets Major Real Estate Players Following Sitzer Verdict

In a remarkable turn of events, just minutes after the jury sided with the homeseller-plaintiffs in the landmark Sitzer | Burnett trial, attorney Michael Ketchmark wasted no time in launching another legal salvo against the real estate industry. This new class action lawsuit, filed on behalf of three new homesellers, aims to further scrutinize the practices surrounding agent commissions.

The Defendants

This new lawsuit expands the list of defendants to include: Compass, eXp World Holdings, Redfin, Weichert Realtors, United Real Estate, Howard Hanna, and Douglas Elliman. Notably, the National Association of Realtors is once again named as a defendant, marking its continued entanglement in legal challenges related to commission structures.

The Allegations

The plaintiffs in this new case echo the grievances aired in the Sitzer | Burnett lawsuit, claiming they have been adversely affected by a “real estate industry conspiracy” that artificially inflates agent commissions. The suit alleges that this practice has a cascading effect, ultimately driving up costs for homesellers.

Legal Venue

The lawsuit has been filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the same jurisdiction that recently saw the Sitzer | Burnett plaintiffs awarded $1.785 billion in damages.

What This Means for the Industry

The filing of this new lawsuit so swiftly on the heels of the Sitzer | Burnett verdict could signal a wave of legal challenges aimed at traditional real estate commission models. Industry stakeholders will undoubtedly be watching closely as this new case unfolds, given its potential to further disrupt established practices and financial structures within the real estate market.

Sitzer v National Association of Realtors: A Mid-Trial Summary

I’ve been discussing and writing about the Sitzer v National Association of REALTORS®, et al, lawsuit since it was originally filed in 2019. My previous articles on this case, as well as the Moerhl suit—a similar lawsuit filed in Illinois—can be found at the links below, which are in chronological order with the most recent first:

Today marks the end of the second week the trial has been underway, and it’s time to take stock of what has transpired so far.

Key Developments

Motions and Counter-Motions

  • Motion to Enforce Court Order: BHH Affiliates, LLC, HSF Affiliates, LLC, and HomeServices of America, Inc., filed a motion to enforce a court order. This motion was subsequently denied by District Judge Stephen R. Bough.
  • Deposition Designations: The court overruled most of the defendants’ objections regarding the deposition of Kevin Goffstein, allowing most of the deposition to be part of the trial record.
  • State Statutes and Regulations: A significant ruling came when the court prohibited the defendants from using state statutes and regulations as exhibits.

Legal Maneuvers

  • Pro Hac Vice Admission: Ian T. Hampton was allowed to appear pro hac vice to represent HomeServices of America, Inc.
  • Motions in Limine: Multiple motions in limine were filed by both parties, aiming to limit the evidence that can be presented during the trial.
  • Motions for Judgment as a Matter of Law: Both the National Association of Realtors and Keller Williams Realty, Inc., filed motions for judgment as a matter of law, which were denied by the court.

Trial Proceedings

  • Jury Trial: The jury trial has been ongoing, with proceedings taking place almost daily. The court has been in session for extended hours, indicating the complexity and importance of the case.
  • Witness Withdrawals: Plaintiffs withdrew David Liniger and Jay Papasan as witnesses to be called by videotaped deposition.
  • Jury Instructions: Various motions and objections were raised concerning the jury instructions, including a specific motion by Keller Williams Realty, Inc., for a Jury Instruction on Missouri State Law.

The first two weeks of the trial have been action-packed, with both sides employing various legal strategies. The court has been diligent in its rulings, aiming to ensure a fair trial. As we move into the next phase, it’s clear that the outcome of this case could have far-reaching implications for the real estate industry. Stay tuned for more updates as the trial progresses.


Beware of Seller Impersonation Fraud: A Real-Life Example and How to Protect Yourself

Seller impersonation fraud, also known as deed fraud, is a growing concern in the real estate industry. This type of fraud involves forging the property owner’s signature to illegally transfer ownership of the property. A recent case in the City of St. Louis serves as a cautionary tale for homeowners.

A Disturbing Case in St. Louis

Bernadette Brown, a member of the Royal Realty Group LLC, recently discovered that a property owned by the LLC at 1129 Penrose Street, St. Louis, MO 63107, was conveyed to Keith Brown via a Quit Claim deed. Bernadette Brown claims her name was forged on the deed, which was then notarized by a non-existent notary. This alarming incident underscores the need for homeowners to be vigilant in monitoring their property records.

How to Protect Yourself

Fortunately, there are several ways homeowners can protect themselves from becoming victims of deed fraud:

Property Fraud Alert Services

Many counties offer free services that alert property owners when deeds or other documents related to their property are filed. Property Fraud Alert is one such service, available in 23 counties in Missouri, including the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, St Charles County, Jefferson, and Franklin. These alerts can serve as an early warning system, allowing you to take immediate action if you suspect fraudulent activity.

Title Reports

If you have concerns about your property, you can order a title report from a local title insurance company for a modest fee. M&I Title* in St. Louis, MO, is one such company that can provide this service. A title report will confirm the name under which the property is registered and identify any deeds of trust against it.

REALIST Reports

Agents from MORE, REALTORS can assist you by pulling a REALIST report from the MLS at no charge. This report will provide some basic information about your property, offering another layer of protection against fraud.

For more insights and advice on the St. Louis real estate market, stay tuned to StLouisRealEstateNews.com.

*Disclosure: I have a financial interest in M&I Title.


Do Landlords Have to Allow Support Animals If They Have a No Pet Policy?

With changing regulations, subdivision restrictions, municipal ordinances, state and federal laws, landlords certainly have a lot to keep up with today to make sure they stay compliant in their rental business.   I’ve been in the business over 40 years, have an interest-and a fair understanding of- laws that affect real estate, yet still find it challenging to stay updated. Given this, I can only imagine the challenge faced by someone with a full-time career who also owns rental properties as an investment. Perhaps, this might be a compelling reason to consider hiring a professional property manager for your rentals. However, that decision brings its own complexities, which I’ll delve into in a future article.

A recurring issue for landlords, which prompts many questions from agents in our firm, clients, and other landlords, revolves around service animals. The question is usually framed something like, “I don’t want any pets in my rental properties, so I have a strict no-pet policy but am I obligated to allow dogs or other pets if the tenant claims it’s a ‘service animal’?” Before I go further, let me remind you, I am not an attorney, this isn’t legal advice—in fact, it’s not advice at all. I’m merely sharing what I’ve learned on the topic to heighten awareness of the issue and to encourage those that are not familiar with it to learn what they need to learn or to seek out proper legal guidance to avoid problems.


CFPB Orders Wells Fargo To Pay $3.7 Billion…Includes more than $2 B in redress to consumers

Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released details of a Consent Order they reached with Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. in which Wells Fargo is ordered to pay “more than $2 billion in redress to consumers and a $1.7 billion civil penalty for legal violations across several of its largest product lines.”  According to a press release issued by the CFPB, Wells Fargo’s “..illegal conduct led to billions of dollars in financial harm to its customers and, for thousands of customers, the loss of their vehicles and homes.”   Rohit Chopra, the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, stated “Wells Fargo’s rinse-repeat cycle of violating the law has harmed millions of American families”.

The CFPB order requires Wells Fargo to: 

  • Provide more than $2 billion in redress to consumers: Wells Fargo will be required to pay redress totaling more than $2 billion to harmed customers. These payments represent refunds of wrongful fees and other charges and compensation for a variety of harms such as frozen bank accounts, illegally repossessed vehicles, and wrongfully foreclosed homes. Specifically, Wells Fargo will have to pay:
    • More than $1.3 billion in consumer redress for affected auto lending accounts.
    • More than $500 million in consumer redress for affected deposit accounts, including $205 million for illegal surprise overdraft fees.
    • Nearly $200 million in consumer redress for affected mortgage servicing accounts.
  • Stop charging surprise overdraft fees: Wells Fargo may not charge overdraft fees for deposit accounts when the consumer had available funds at the time of a purchase or other debit transaction, but then subsequently had a negative balance once the transaction settled. Surprise overdraft fees have been a recurring issue for consumers who can neither reasonably anticipate nor take steps to avoid them.
  • Ensure auto loan borrowers receive refunds for certain add-on fees: Wells Fargo must ensure that the unused portion of GAP contracts, a type of debt cancellation contract that covers the remaining amount of the borrower’s auto loan in the case of a major accident or theft, is refunded to the borrower when a loan is paid off or otherwise terminates early.
  • Pay $1.7 billion in penalties: Wells Fargo will pay a $1.7 billion penalty to the CFPB, which will be deposited into the CFPB’s victims relief fund.

To get more information on the CFPB victims relief fund, click here.

Wells Fargo employees who are aware of other illegal activity are encouraged to send information about what they know to whistleblower@cfpb.gov.

 

Lawsuit Filed Against Zillow With Accusations of Wiretapping and Invasion of Privacy

On Monday of this week, a federal lawsuit was filed in the United Status District Court for the Western District of Washington by Natalie Perkins and Kenneth Hasson against Zillow Group, Inc. and Microsoft Corporation.  The suit was filed as a class action complaint on behalf of “All natural persons in the United States and its territories whose Website Communications were captured through the use of Session Replay Code embedded in Zillow’s website”.

In the complaint, the plaintiff’s allege that the defendants, Zillow and Microsoft, violated the Washington Wiretapping Statute (Wash. Rev. Code §9.73.030, et. seq.) through the use of Microsoft’s Session Replay Code “…on Zillow’s website to spy on, automatically and secretly, and to intercept Zillow’s website visitors’ electronic interactions communications with Zillow in real time”.  The second Count of the complaint, Invasion of Privacy – Intrusion Upon Seclusion, alleges that, using the same code as well as other methods which violated the plaintiff’s “…reasonable expectation of privacy in their Website Communications..” which violates the plaintiff’s “….right to
privacy is also established in the Constitution of the State of Washington which explicitly recognizes an individual’s right to privacy under Article 1 §7.

The lawsuit is asking the court for relief in the form of a judgment as follows:

A. Certifying the Class and appointing Plaintiffs as the Class representatives; B. Appointing Plaintiffs’ counsel as class counsel;
C. Declaring that Defendants’ past conduct was unlawful, as alleged herein; D. Declaring Defendants’ ongoing conduct is unlawful, as alleged herein;
E. Enjoining Defendants from continuing the unlawful practices described herein, and awarding such injunctive and other equitable relief as the Court deems just and proper;
F. Awarding Plaintiffs and the Class members statutory, actual, compensatory, consequential, punitive, and nominal damages, as well as restitution and/or disgorgement of profits unlawfully obtained;
G. Awarding Plaintiffs and the Class members pre-judgment and post-judgment interest;
H. Awarding Plaintiffs and the Class members reasonable attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses; and
I. Granting such other relief as the Court deems just and proper.

The entire lawsuit filing, NATALIE PERKINS and KENNETH HASSON, individually and on behalf themselves and of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. ZILLOW GROUP, INC. and MICROSOFT CORPORATION, can be accessed here.

 

Most Consumers Who Sold to Opendoor Lost Money According to FTC Complaint

Maybe you’ve received an unsolicited offer recently to buy your home via email or postcard from Opendoor, a home buying firm. OpenDoor will make an offer on your house, bypassing the traditional method of selling your home via a REALTOR® using the MLS (which reaches 13,000+ REALTORS®) and entices you with catchy phrases on their website like “Get an instant offer and get paid” and “Skip showings and repairs”. It can sound good and SIMPLE but, according to the FTC complaint against OPENDOOR LABS, Inc. (Opendoor) and the agreement and consent order, “…consumers who sold to Opendoor have lost money compared to what they would have received through a traditional sale.

The consent order which, according to a press release issued by Opendoor about the FTC complaint, they have agreed to, prohibits Opendoor from misrepresenting:

[xyz-ips snippet=”Sande-Hea—Seller-Resources-Listing-Targeted”]

Continue reading “Most Consumers Who Sold to Opendoor Lost Money According to FTC Complaint

Sitzer vs NAR (National Association of REALTORS) – Good or bad for consumers?

In an article published yesterday, I referenced the Sitzer vs National Association of REALTORS law suit and said I would have a more in-depth discussion about that suit and here it is.  The lawsuit was filed by Joshua Sitzer, Amy Winger, Scott and Rhonda Burnett and Ryan Hendrickson on June 21, 2019 against the National Association of REALTORS® and the parent companies of major real estate companies and franchises including Coldwell Banker, ReMax, Keller Williams and Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices.

The Sitzer lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri sought to be certified as a class action lawsuit on behalf of “all persons and entities who listed properties on one of four Multiple Listing Services…and paid a broker commission from at least April 29, 2015 until the Present…“.   The four MLS’s listed in the suit that this applies to are:

  • Heartland MLS (Kansas City, MO)
  • MARIS MLS (St Louis, MO)
  • Southern Missouri Regional MLS (Springfield, MO)
  • CBOR MLS (Columbia, MO)

Last Friday, April 22, 2022, Stephen R. Bough, a Federal Judge for in the Western District of Missouri, issued an order granting the class action status for the lawsuit the Plaintiffs sought.

What does the class action ruling change?

Continue reading “Sitzer vs NAR (National Association of REALTORS) – Good or bad for consumers?

Eviction Moratorium Extended To July 31st But Is The Last Extension

The Director for the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Dr. Rochelle Walensky, signed an extension to the eviction moratorium extending its expiration from June 30, 2021 to July 31, 2021.  The CDC has indicated that “this is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium.”

[xyz-ips snippet=”Homes-For-Sale”]

CFPB Proposes Banning Foreclosures Through The End Of This Year

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) earlier this week proposed rule changes that would help prevent “avoidable foreclosures” that will come about when the current foreclosure ban expires June 30th.  According to the CFPB, nearly 3 million homeowners are delinquent on their mortgages as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the economic issues that have come about as a result.

The CFPB’s proposed rule changes include:

  • Require a pre-foreclosure review period that would generally prohibit loan servicers from starting foreclosure until after December 31, 2021 on loans secured by a borrower’s principal residence.
  • Permit loan servicers to offer “certain streamlined loan modification options to borrowers with COVID-19-related hardships.”

The CFPB is going to accept comments on their proposed rules until May 11, 2011 and then afterward will decide how to proceed.

[xyz-ips snippet=”Homes-For-Sale”]

About the CFPB (from their website)

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.consumerfinance.gov.