Notes From the Legal Hotline: June 2022

June 2, 2022

- By The MAR Legal Team

Q: What do REALTORS® need to know to avoid antitrust liability? A: The best way to avoid antitrust liability is to ensure that all business decisions are made independently within the brokerage. The potential for antitrust liability arises any time two or more competitors discuss their business practices. 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. Within the real estate arena, we most often hear of antitrust issues arising from price fixing and group boycotts. Price fixing may be as obvious as two or more competitors blatantly agreeing to charge consumers the same commission on real estate transactions or agreeing to the same cooperating commission splits. Price fixing…

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Notes From the Legal Hotline: May 2022

May 4, 2022

- By The MAR Legal Team

Q: If I have two buyer clients interested in submitting an offer on the same property, am I a dual agent? A: No, dual agency occurs when one licensee represents both sides of the transaction. An agent may represent multiple buyers interested in the same property without entering into a dual agency relationship. Although license law does not require clients to consent or receive notice if this situation arises, the MAR Buyer Agency Agreement does include language that acknowledges that it is a possibility that the agent may represent multiple buyers submitting offers on the same property. Given the current market conditions, these situations are occurring more frequently, and it may be worthwhile having a conversation with a client at the onset of the relationship to address this possibility. It is important to note that a buyer agent representing…

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A Snapshot of Race and Home Buying in America

April 29, 2022

- By Sabrina Lapointe

This report looks at homeownership trends, mortgage market and affordability by race, and home buyer demographics from the 2021 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, home buyers and fair housing. Some findings include: Black/African-American home buyers reported the highest share of student loan debt at 41%, with a median amount of $45,000. 19% of Hispanic/Latinos, and 18% of Asian/Pacific Islanders and Black/African-Americans purchased multi-generational homes. They primarily purchased a multi-generational home to spend more time with aging parents, health/caretaking of aging parents/relatives, wanting a larger home that multiple incomes could afford together, and cost savings. The share of multi-generational buyers was 10% among White/Caucasian buyers. 21% of Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 11% of Hispanic/Latino buyers used a gift from relative or friend towards their down payment for their home.

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Fair Housing Considerations in Tenant Screening

April 22, 2022

- By The MAR Legal Team

Fair Housing Considerations in Tenant Screening Housing providers often implement procedures in which prospective tenants are screened to determine whether to lease a particular property to that individual. While it is important to assess a prospective tenant to ensure that they will meet the obligations under the lease agreement, screening procedures are rife with potential Fair Housing violations. Rental Vouchers A major area of concern that has been receiving a significant amount of attention1 over the last couple of years is discrimination against prospective tenants who receiving housing assistance, such as Section 8. In 2020 the Office of the Attorney General entered into settlement agreements totaling $110,000 with four different real estate brokerages for discrimination against low-income tenants who were the recipients of housing vouchers.2 Additionally, just this month, the Office of the Attorney General resolved four additional cases, in…

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Avoid Fair Housing Violations in Advertising

April 15, 2022

- By “Window to the Law: Advertising Within the Fair Housing Framework,” National Association of REALTORS® (April 1, 2022)

Real estate professionals are legally obligated to uphold fair housing laws, and the language and images you use in your advertising needs to be vetted carefully. REALTORS® also have an obligation to do so under Article 10 of the Code of Ethics. “Advertisements should never indicate a preference or limitation based on a protected class, which at the federal level includes race, color, religion, sex, disability, family status, and national origin,” Mike Rohde, staff attorney at the National Association of REALTORS®, says in the latest “Window to the Law” video. “HUD recently expanded its interpretation of sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and state and local laws may expand the categories of protected classes further.” Rohde provides a tip: When advertising a property, focus on describing the property, not the buyer or tenant. As such, he cautions against using phrases…

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White House Releases Plan to Combat Appraisal Bias

April 8, 2022

- By PAVE.hud.gov and Whitehouse.gov

An interagency task force at the White House has outlined a plan aimed at rooting out racial and ethnic bias in home valuations. The Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity task force released a five-step action plan yesterday to increase oversight and accountability. It also includes steps for homebuyers and homeowners to take when they receive a valuation lower than expected. The National Association of REALTORS® had a part in the formation of the action plan, including meeting with the PAVE task force to propose solutions on how the Biden administration, REALTORS®, and the broader appraisal industry could work together to address concerns and improve public trust in the appraisal process. “Historically, many groups have faced unfair home undervaluation,” Leslie Rouda Smith, NAR’s president, said in a statement following the task force’s release of its report. “Addressing those wrongs is…

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Off the Cuff with Ryan Weyandt, CEO of the Industry’s fastest growing LGBTQ group

April 1, 2022

- By Sabrina Lapointe

Q: This is an unprecedented time for the LGBTQ community. Public opinion for same-sex marriage now tops 70% in the U.S., yet there are now more than 200+ pieces of legislation in motion at the state and local level that seeks to roll back LGBTQ rights. How do you explain that? A: I wish I could explain this logically. American society was given the opportunity to become emboldened in its opinions in recent years through political discourse that more resembles political warfare. I talk to folks, some who I’m related to and love very deeply, who tell me that they support me. They tell me that they’re blown away that there aren’t equal rights protections under federal law for LGBTQ people. They tell me that they want to learn about how they can help, and then tell me they voted for…

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Notes From the Legal Hotline: April 2022

- By The MAR Legal Team

Q: There has been a lot of discussion about website accessibility lately. Is there anything that I need to do? A: Over the last several years there have been a few notable cases across the country addressing the issue of website accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but the Department of Justice (DOJ) was slow to provide specific guidance or regulation on this topic. On March 18, 2022, the DOJ published new guidance on website accessibility, offering some much-needed clarity in this arena. As the DOJ did not provide a regulation with detailed standards for accessibility, businesses will continue to have some flexibility in how they comply with the ADA requirements. REALTORS® operating a website for their businesses should work with their website vendors to conduct an accessibility audit of their sites and develop a plan for…

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Notes from the Legal Hotline: March 2022

March 2, 2022

- By The MAR Legal Team

Q: If I select “Designated Agency” on the Massachusetts Mandatory Licensee-Consumer Relationship Disclosure, are there any other forms I need to provide my client to establish designated agency? A: Yes, although selecting Designated Agency on the Relationship Disclosure is necessary to identify the agency capacity in which you are working, it does not establish the required consent to designated agency, nor does it provide notice that it is a designated transaction. Consent to designated agency may be established through an exclusive representation agreement, such as the MAR Exclusive Right to Sell Listing Agreement or Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreement, or through a standalone form, such as the MAR Consent to Designated Agency. When designated agency occurs in a transaction, meaning that licensees within the same brokerage are representing both sides of the transaction, notice must be provided to both the…

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MAR Advocacy Provides Some Relief This Tax Season

February 18, 2022

- By Jonathan Schreiber

As we enter tax season this year, many Realtors® will hopefully get at least a small reprieve thanks to MAR’s advocacy.  In 2017, the Federal government instituted a new cap of $10,000 on state and local tax (SALT) deductions. Since then, many states have been seeking a means of restoring the SALT deduction benefit. Based on new IRS guidance, Massachusetts enacted a workaround in the FY22 budget. Here’s how it operates:  1.Pass-through entities (S Corps, LLCs) can opt to pay additional entity-level state income taxes.  2. State provides offsetting personal income tax credit for 90% of their share of the Pass-through entity excise paid by the entity.    Pass-through entities can elect to pay the excise when filing Form 3, Form 355S – Schedule S, or Form 2 and will confirm the election by submitting the new Form 63D-ELT. To…

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