REBNY to begin issuing fines for problematic listings

Starting this fall, inaccurate listing data or violations of the Fair Housing Act could mean thousands of dollars in fines

New York /
Jul.July 30, 2020 06:42 PM
REBNY president James Whelan (iStock, Whelan by Anuja Shakya)

REBNY president James Whelan (iStock, Whelan by Anuja Shakya)

A years-long effort to clean up New York residential listings data is taking the next step forward – and it’s a punitive one.

The Real Estate Board of New York will begin to issue fines beginning Sept. 15 up to $20,000 per sales listing and $3,200 per rental listing that violates its policies, according to an email the group sent out Thursday.

The forthcoming levies are part of an ongoing effort from the trade association to crackdown on inaccurate or unlawful listing data in REBNY’s residential listing service, known as the RLS.

The RLS syndicates listings to more than 90 partners, and the trade organization estimates that about 14,000 real estate agents and brokers use the RLS to list and source properties for clients.

Violations that could result in fines include listings that have incorrect data – such as disclosing client information, the wrong closing price, commission type or listing status – or those that include language that violates the Fair Housing Act or New York City Human Rights Law prohibiting discrimination in housing.

For sales listing violations, the fine is equivalent to 0.5 percent of the listed price up to a maximum of $10,000. Fines for rental listings are a flat $1,200 on the first violation, with the fine rising to $2,000 if a second violation occurs.

For inaccurate data, listing agents on sales and rentals are given a penalty-free notification to correct the listing within three business days. If the error isn’t fixed, a fine will be charged. If the listing still hasn’t been changed after a second fine, REBNY will revoke the agent’s RLS access.

For listings that violate federal or state anti-discrimination laws, REBNY will charge a fine upfront and give the agent two business days to make the fix. If the issue isn’t resolved, a second fine will be levied, and the agent will lose access to the RLS.

Notifications of violations and fines are sent by REBNY’s RLS team, which tracks violations through an automated mechanism and by reviewing complaints. In a release sent Thursday to members, REBNY encouraged RLS users to report potential violations.

The RLS team will also do a quarterly review of its issued violations and will fine brokerages up to $10,000 if more than 5 percent of its agents were penalized. If a firm is fined more than three times in a year, REBNY may suspend RLS access for 30 days.

REBNY’s effort to police its data in the RLS began in 2018 after brokerage heads accused the organization of not enforcing its rules.

The fines were initially announced in early 2019. At the time, REBNY expected to begin levying fines within three months. The trade organization said the delay was due to “significant, months-long IT systems upgrades” that were completed this spring. REBNY said it further prolonged the grace period even after its technology was ready due to the pandemic.

Write to Erin Hudson at [email protected]


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