MLS manipulation now carries a $5K fine: Miami Association of Realtors

The Miami Association of Realtors has just revised its penalties, aimed at reducing manipulations of the Multiple Listing Service. 

Now, for every manipulation of MLS content, the association’s more than 41,000 members will be required to pay $5,000 per violation, according to an email obtained by The Real Deal that was sent out to all members on Monday.

The new penalties come nearly a year after Miami Beach Realtor Kevin Tomlinson filed a complaint with the Miami Association of Realtors against Coldwell Banker’s Jill Hertzberg and Jill Eber of The Jills, claiming they altered MLS data to hide homes that had been on the market for long periods of time. Tomlinson was arrested for allegedly trying to extort Hertzberg and Eber in August. 

Later that month, Tomlinson cited 353 alleged MLS manipulations, including 30 changes to active listings in 2014. The Jills spokesperson, however, previously told The Real Deal the MLS changes were unintentional, and only concerned expired listings.

A manipulation of the Multiple Listings Service includes but is not limited to property type, county, MLS area, folio number, five-digit zip codes, and the manipulation of property history and/or days-on-market information, according to the Miami Association of Realtors’ email.

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“This is a response to different things going on in the marketplace, things brought to our attention by [anonymous] sources that our electronic error system was not detecting,” Deborah Boza-Valledor, COO and chief marketing officer of the Miami Association of Realtors, told TRD.

Now, she said the error system has been tweaked so that it detects if certain fields of data have been manipulated.

Tomlinson spoke about the changes on his Facebook page, calling it a “systemic problem with probably every MLS in the country.”

Boza-Valledor declined to comment on the Jills, but agreed that MLS manipulations are affecting other associations across the country. The Miami organization is the largest local association of Realtors in the United States. “I’m sure we’re not that unique,” she said.

Boza-Valledor said “data integrity” regarding MLS manipulations now has its own section among rules. A fine of $5,000 replaces an escalating fine that started at $1,000. According to the association’s newly released “How to Avoid an MLS Fine” document, fines break down to the following sections:

  • Unauthorized access – Misuse of MLS information: $5,000 fine plus MLS hearing panel
  • Data integrity regarding the manipulation of MLS content: $5,000 fine plus MLS hearing panel
  • Loading listings and reporting changes by deadline: first violation is $500 or no fine if corrected within two days, second violation is $750, and third violation is $1,5000 plus MLS hearing panel
  • Data integrity: first violation is $500 or no fine if corrected within two days, second violation is $750, and third violation is $1,5000 plus MLS hearing panel