The Northwest Multiple Listing Service, which tracks home sales in Western Washington, has been sued by Whatcom County real-estate agents...

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The Northwest Multiple Listing Service, which tracks home sales in Western Washington, has been sued by Whatcom County real-estate agents, who say the Kirkland group has denied them access to listings.

The Bellingham-Whatcom Multiple Listing Service claims that the Northwest MLS cut off its access to listing information in the summer.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in Whatcom County Superior Court, said the Northwest MLS wants to drive “local listing services out of business … to consolidate its market power.”

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“We want access to the broader system, and we want a fair chance to compete,” said Thomas Resick, an attorney representing the Whatcom MLS.

The Northwest MLS said the lawsuit was brought after it opened a Bellingham office in October and started offering its services free to any licensed broker who joined the group.

Agencies pay an enrollment charge when they join and monthly fees to remain members.

The Northwest MLS has said there is no law or agreement that requires it to give free listings access to nonmembers.

“NWMLS is confident that this lawsuit is without merit,” attorney Chris Osborn said in a statement.

“It will vigorously defend against this lawsuit so that it can continue to offer these services to all of its members throughout the state, including those in Whatcom County.”

According to the lawsuit, the Northwest MLS created the Washington Information Network 11 years ago to allow agents to share listings, keyboxes and access to real-estate documents, such as sales agreements.

The network was shut down three years ago without alerting the Whatcom County group, its lawsuit claims.

Agents still had access to listing information until June.

The Whatcom County group is asking for unspecified damages for lost sales and wants the network reinstated.

A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for 3 p.m. Feb. 25 in Whatcom County Superior Court.

In November, the Whatcom MLS filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, claiming that the Northwest MLS violated a 1990 FTC order by not sharing listing information.

The complaint has been referred to the FTC’s national office in Washington, D.C., typical for complaints involving an FTC order violation, said Robert Schroeder, assistant director of the agency’s Seattle office.

Kristina Shevory: 206-464-2039 or kshevory@seattletimes.com