Notes From the Legal Hotline: October 2021

October 5, 2021

- By The MAR Legal Team

Q: What tasks may an assistant perform in a real estate office?

A: The tasks that may be performed by an assistant in a real estate office are going to depend on whether the assistant is licensed or unlicensed. A licensed assistant may perform any tasks permitted of licensees in a real estate transaction, but an unlicensed assistant is much more limited in the tasks they may perform. Some examples of activities in which an unlicensed real estate assistant can engage are:

  • General administrative tasks, such as answering the phones and sending mailers
  • Placing signs on listed properties
  • Scheduling appointments for the licensee
  • Preparing open house materials


Unlicensed assistants should avoid tasks that place them in direct contact with clients or customers. Specifically, the following are some activities unlicensed assistants should avoid:

  • Providing specific details of a property
  • Discussing marketing strategies or home values
  • Hosting an open house or conducting showings
  • Negotiating the terms of a sale
  • Presenting offers


Engaging in any activities that go beyond the scope of an administrative task could violate Massachusetts licensing laws.

Q: There has been a lot of talk about antitrust lately – how can I avoid violating the antitrust laws?

A: The best rule of thumb to avoid an antitrust violation is to make all business decisions unilaterally and independently within the brokerage. Any time two or more competitors discuss business practices, there is a risk of an antitrust violation. In real estate, the most common antitrust issues that arise are price fixing and boycotts, both of which are per se violations of the antitrust laws.

Price fixing can occur when two or more real estate brokerages agree to the commission that will be charged to consumers. This also applies to any agreement on commission splits with other cooperating brokerages. When discussing fees with potential clients, never suggest that the fee is “standard” or “what everybody charges.”

A group boycott results when two or more brokerages refuse to cooperate with another competitor or cooperate only on less favorable terms. This may arise in an attempt to change the competitor’s business practices or force them out of business. Regardless of intent, group boycotts are treated as per se violations.

The business of real estate is fraught with potential antitrust violations, particularly when engaging with peers, who are also competitors, on social media platforms and at association events and meetings. REALTORS® must always be alert to discussions that focus on commission rates, pricing structures, listing policies, or marketing practices of other brokerages. If a discussion becomes troubling, immediately suggest a change of topic, or remove oneself from the conversation.

A finding of an antitrust violation can result in significant penalties. A civil judgment may include treble damages and the payment of attorney’s fees and court costs. A criminal penalty may result in fines, court supervision of the business, and even prison time.


Written by: Justin Davidson, General Counsel; Catherine Taylor, 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