The Lockbox Rule

Once in a while, you may see emails like “Broker needs an East Bay lockbox key this weekend! Thanks!” circulating. Brokers and agents from out of the area publically ask local agents if they can borrow a lockbox key because their keys won’t work. The lockbox key does not work for a good reason. Unauthorized use of real-estate lockboxes and keys violates the MLS Rules and may subject the violating agents to disciplinary actions and sanctions. Out of the area agents generally need to contact the listing agent to arrange other methods for showing the home.
Use of Real-Estate Lockboxes

Most modern lockboxes now have a microprocessor inside. Agents need an electronic key to open it and the only way to get a key is to become a member of the local MLS. All of the keys have a unique identifier so when someone opens the box, the microprocessor inside registers the agent who opens it. The MLS Rules forbid agents from lending others their electronic key.
MLS Rules

The guideline for utilizing the lockboxes and keys is governed by the MLS Rules Section 13. Paragraph 13.1 and 13.2 regarding lockboxes and key privileges, read:

13.1 Eligibility for Lockboxes. MLS Participants and Subscribers are eligible for lockbox privileges if they otherwise qualify under this section. Clerical Users are not eligible for lockbox privileges. MLS Participants and Subscribers shall be eligible to hold a lockbox key provided:

  • The key holder signs a lease agreement with the MLS.
  • The Participant to which the key holder is licensed cosigns the lease agreement with the MLS.
  • The key holder continues to comply with all MLS rules relating to lockbox keys.
  • The key holder and Participant to whom the key holder is licensed remain eligible for MLS services.

13.2 Key Use and Service. Keys may not be used under any circumstances by anyone other than the key holder, including, but not limited to, lending, borrowing or sharing keys with others. The MLS is not obligated to provide service on keys or lock boxes to individuals who are not the registered lessee or owner of the component. Keys may only be used for the purpose of facilitating the sale or lease of a listed property.
Agents should carefully review all related MLS rules before using lockboxes. Failure to abide by the rules relating to lockboxes can result in loss of or restriction on all lockbox and key privileges and potential disciplinary action.