Don’t do this. Bad stuff may happen.

It has come to CREA’s attention that some members are creating websites that display the address of properties, sometimes with a photo, that are not listed for sale with that member. They may even not be for sale at all. How do we know this? Because our own homes appear on some of these websites and they are not for sale.

Don’t do this. Bad stuff may happen.

Here’s a short list of problems you may face if you create such a website:

First, it could raise concerns under the REALTOR® Code. Article 15 of the Code provides that claims or offerings in advertising must be accurate, clear and understandable. If a property is not for sale but is displayed on your website alongside other listings, this could be unclear and confusing to consumers.  Confusion could also result from the statement accompanying the property address or picture. For example, something like, “this property does not seem to be listed.” What does that mean? Does that mean the property is not on your board’s MLS® System? What if it is listed on another board’s MLS® System? What if it is an exclusive listing? What if it is a FSBO listing?

Issues could also arise under the REALTOR® Code if you are displaying a property on your website with a statement like “not currently for sale” but the property is listed with a different brokerage or is being sold privately through the homeowner. This would be an inaccurate statement, which could raise concerns under Article 15. It could also amount to advertising another REALTOR®’s property, which could raise concerns under Article 14 if the proper consents are not in place. Moreover, it could result in advertising a listing without the listing brokerage’s name, which would be an issue under Article 13.

Second, it could raise concerns under provincial regulation. We are by no means experts in provincial real estate legislation, but we know that the regulators’ advertising guidelines in several provinces prohibit advertising that is false or misleading. They also often state that a registrant cannot advertise another registrant’s listing without their consent and that all advertising must display the listing brokerage name. For these reasons, advertising a property on your website that might be listed with another registrant, and that does not display the listing brokerage’s name, could raise concerns with the provincial regulator.

Third, it raises potential privacy issues. A website that displays the address and/or picture of a property without the homeowners’ consent could be subject to a privacy complaint.

Fourth, it is annoying. Whenever there is a website that displays pictures or addresses of properties in this manner, our Member Support team gets complaints. A lot of complaints.

So what’s the lesson here? You got it: operating a website that vacuums up the world and displays property information you have no connection to raises a host of potential problems. Don’t do this. Bad stuff may happen.

Simon also contributed to this article.  If you read this article and nothing bad happens, you can thank me.  If you read this article and bad things still happen, then feel free to blame Simon.

The article above is for information purposes and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

Allison McLure, former Legal Counsel, provided advice to CREA, boards, and associations on intellectual property law, DDF®, and Canada’s anti-spam legislation, as well as protected CREA’s trademarks and helped members comply with federal legislation and CREA’s trademark rules.

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