With data privacy a growing concern for all Americans, the Montana Association of REALTORS® has taken an active role in supporting legislation that would protect people’s personal information.
This year, the REALTORS® association campaigned successfully against language in a bill (SB 54) that would have mandated public disclosure of real estate sales prices for tax appraisals. The disclosure of this information from a private contract between the buyer and seller would have been an invasion of privacy rights that Montanans value highly. An independent poll revealed that over 70% of Montanans opposed the bill.
The bill’s public disclosure requirement not only would have infringed on privacy rights, its usefulness was suspect. The Montana Department of Revenue, a backer of the bill, already had access to the sales information. Without interpretation or analysis, the information could have given a misleading impression of a certain property or area’s value, because the sales price is not always the same as its value. For example, a seller in difficult times — perhaps going through a divorce or a death in the family — may sell a property for less than its true value simply to get rid of it quickly.
The Association brought its concerns about the bill to consumers through radio commercials, a website and direct consumer outreach. The Association’s leaders also spoke to legislators and encouraged its REALTOR® members to do the same. As a result of these efforts, the sales price disclosure language was removed from the bill and replaced with a statement that “the legislature finds that the demands of individual privacy outweigh the merits of public disclosure.”
The Montana Association of REALTORS® hopes to continue to build on this success as it tackles other important legislative issues to protect consumers.