The Hays Central Apprisal District has been accused of using private real estate data without permission. Above, a house being built in the Millbrook Park subdivision in San Marcos. Daily Record photo by Nick Castillo
Appraisal district accused of using private real estate data
The Hays Central Appraisal District has landed themselves in hot water by violating its terms of service, according to the Austin Board of Realtors (ABoR). Allegations from the Travis County real estate entity states that the Hays Central Appraisal District used ABoR’s Multiple Listing Service (MLS) real estate data without authorization.
On Tuesday, the Austin/Central Texas Realty Information Service (ACTRIS) sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Hays CAD to stop using the data immediately. Information received by the Daily Record showed Cord Shiflet, 2022 President of ABoR and ACTRIS board of directors, stating they have been made aware that an appraiser working for Hays CAD may have accessed ACTRIS data in violation of the terms of service.
“We are actively investigating the source(s) of the unauthorized data access and how MLS data may have been inappropriately used in the appraisal of Hays County properties,” Shiflet said in a letter to ABoR members. “Unauthorized access to MLS data by an appraisal district or any other entity is unacceptable. The Texas legislature has been clear about the respect, freedom and privacy homeowners should have regarding their home purchases and sales and we will not interrupt that expectation.”
Shiflet said as a governmental entity, Hays CAD is not open to the public to conduct appraisals for compensation and therefore does not meet ACTRIS rules regarding the authorized use of the platform. Additionally, licensed appraisers who have authorized access to the MLS are prohibited from sharing MLS data beyond the purposes of providing appraisals to consumers.
“The unauthorized use of MLS data by the county appraisal districts is an ongoing issue across the state of Texas,” Shiftlet said. “ACTRIS has been and will continue to lead the charge in proactively addressing violations of our rules.”
Shiftlet assured his constituents action will be taken to ensure full accountability from all parties enabling the unauthorized exploitations of ACTRIS MLS data.
“I find it unforgivable that the appraisal district would do something like this,” said Cameron Whitehead, a Hays County businessman. “This is a total misuse of power and trust.”
Laura Raven, the district’s chief appraiser, told the Daily Record that Hays CAD has utilized MLS sales data when provided to it and relevant.
“In its annual effort to satisfy both its constitutional and statutory mandates to determine market values for properties within Hays County for tax assessment purposes, Hays CAD has utilized MLS sales data when provided to us and relevant,” Raven said. “Under generally accepted appraisal guidelines, groups of sales occurring within a region of the county and within appropriate time frames are widely considered to be the most useful information in establishing market values.”
Raven said the appraisal district is in a continuous search for the most up-to-date property value information, and it “routinely” asks property owners, brokers and tax agents for information, and it uses public records and internet research for accurate data.
However, she did not respond to questions asking where the appraisal district obtained the MLS data.