Notes From the Legal Hotline: April 2024

April 11, 2024

- By The MAR Legal Team

Q: What do REALTORS® need to know about Fair Housing?

A: Everything! REALTORS® play a pivotal role in ensuring fair housing compliance throughout a transaction.

When working with buyers, not only should REALTORS® ensure that equal access to available properties is provided, but also that prospective buyers are not directed towards or away from certain neighborhoods based on demographics. Do not make assumptions about where a prospective buyer might like to live; buyers should be provided the opportunity to make that determination on their own terms. Your job as their REALTOR® is to be a resource to aid the buyer in making the right decision for them.

Similarly, when taking a new listing, REALTORS® should have a conversation with the seller about the importance of fair housing. Many sellers may be tempted to use impermissible criteria, such as race or familial status, when determining whether to accept one offer over another. REALTORS® must counsel sellers that such determinations need to be made on neutral criteria. An offer should be accepted based upon the strengths of its terms rather than on who submitted the offer.

Both REALTORS® and sellers face potentially significant liability under state and federal law for failure to adhere to fair housing laws. Additionally, REALTORS® may also face additional sanctions for a violation of Article 10 of the Code of Ethics, as well as by the Board of Registration for Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons for a violation of license laws.

Q: Does a seller have to provide a formal rejection to a buyer’s offer?

A: No, sellers are not obligated by law to formally reject an offer. In the context of the MAR Contract to Purchase (Form 501), section 2 stipulates the timeframe within which the offer remains valid. Failure on the seller’s part to accept the offer within this designated timeframe results in a de facto rejection of the buyer’s offer. Although buyers have the option to request a formal rejection from sellers, there exists no legal requirement for sellers to comply with such requests.

In cases where the listing is a REALTOR®, the cooperating broker has the right to submit a written request to the listing broker, seeking confirmation that the offer was indeed presented to the seller, or alternatively, that the seller waived the obligation to review the offer. This obligation is outlined in Standard of Practice 1-7 in the REALTOR® Code of Ethics.


Written by: Justin Davidson, General Counsel; Catherine Taylor, Associate Counsel; Kate Berard, Associate Counsel; and Jonathan Schreiber, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel.

Services provided through the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, by providing this service, assumes no actual or implied responsibility for any improper use of responses to questions through this service.  The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® will not be legally responsible for any potential misrepresentations or errors made by providing this service. For more information regarding these topics authorized callers should contact the MAR legal hotline at 800-370-5342 or e-mail at