I read the story about Mr. Lowe’s conflict with Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA) and the follow-up article in REM attempting to place some context around his accusations and felt the need to comment and make a defence of the good people and important work that is done by AREA. 1



First, a little context:

I was in the situation of being “under investigation for professional misconduct” by the Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) under false premises in their wanting to gag my opinion of RECA’s Residential Measurements Standard (RMS). The RMS was apparently concocted by those without understanding of real property law and existing legal standards of measurement. RECA, as the administrator of the Real Estate Act in Alberta, dismissed all existing conventions for measuring real property and imposed a new and unique area measurement of only the interior floor space, which is paid for and used only by Alberta real estate agents and which they have been forced to use in their advertising.

I estimated the cost of this second system to be in the order of $10 million annually to the real estate industry agents. More importantly, and because it differs from the legal measurements, there are now two systems (legal measurements and RECA’s RMS) and this disintegrates information, causing confusion amongst the public and creates a greater risk to agents, for which they pay the privilege. The public is not protected. In fact it is at more risk as the legal measurements, which are used in every other instance, are by definition different. Beyond that, it was implemented without previous notice one day and declared that all were forthwith to use this new system.  With a background in geodesy and geomatics and land information systems I was immediately aware of the folly.

However, in my protesting this second system, RECA ran over my constitutional charter rights by threatening me with my license and hence my livelihood. And I was not the only one.

The regulator was out of line with its role managing the Real Estate Act and regularly encroached into areas outside of the act where it had no mandate or expertise, to the point of in my case, using manipulative legal actions to disguise its incompetence. I have studied and worked as an engineer in measurement systems and yes, it is my opinion, but the ignorance in the implementation of RECA’s RMS is apparent not just to me.

In the two years since, RECA has been investigated by the government for whom it administers the Real Estate Act, and major systematic changes in governance have been made.

Until my protest and although I have been licensed for 27 years and have been a member of three boards, I hadn’t really understood the role of industry associations like AREA.  However, when my charter rights were threatened by RECA, I found that AREA was there to defend me by providing moral support and legal advice.

I also learned that AREA does a lot of very important work on behalf of the industry and keeps the industry moving forward. My hope is that the reform of RECA and the new act will stop malevolent practices. This of course is my opinion and I am able to say it now only because I am retired and no longer concerned about my license being arbitrarily revoked.

So back to Mr. Lowe’s concerns:

  • The membership advocacy program was started because of people like me who have been targeted by the regulator for no reason and with false charges in order to gag legitimate objections. I did not give up my charter rights and freedom of speech as a premise to having a real estate license. I know of at least two others who suffered the same false premises in the RMS debacle. In my case the continuing terror caused to me by RECA was the reason for finally leaving my practice two years later. However, AREA’s support in the meantime was critical to my well being.
  • Members availing themselves of help from their association must have the confidence of privacy.

 

Frank McCullough MEng, BBA, DULE
Calgary

 

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. What is a legally-determined dimension? Builders use one way of measuring, city assessors have their own processes, appraisers have had their own measurement systems (roughly the ANSI standards)… so which one of those is the legally-determined dimensions you speak of?

    I don’t know what any committee has been doing over the past couple years with respect to considering further changes to the RMS and I don’t know why it stopped (perhaps because all Council members, some of whom likely sat on that Committee, were fired by the Minister?) but your original article said the RMS requires interior measurements and it doesn’t and it never has. You said RECA wanted to gag you because you spoke out against the RMS, particulary the use of interior measurements, but interior measurements have never been used for detached properties under the RMS.

    • Hi AM,

      I apologize for not getting back to you, but have not been monitoring this page. Hopefully you will see this response.

      First, it was not my intention to go into this subject from my defence of AREA, however your questions seem legitimate and so I will give my two cents worth.

      I will answer the second one first, regarding the intention to use and require interior measurements to use according to the RMS. I (along with others) have protested the imposition of interior only measurements as a requirement for Realtors only in presenting real estate for sale because of the fact that it is not a legally determined measurement. That this was the case is shown RECA’s website, in which has a history of the work done on RMS:

      Please note the following taken from RECA’s website. I’ve included the link..

      https://www.reca.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Consultation-Paper-RMS-Consequences-2019.pdf
      The following in quotes is directly from the site.

      “2017-2018
      Council directed RECA Administration to form an RMS Working Group of stakeholders to whom RMS applied.
      The RMS Working Group recommended amendments to the RMS, including changing the RMS to make interior measurements the standard for all property types. They presented their recommendations to Council at the October 2018 Council meeting.
      At the October 2018 meeting, Council defeated a motion to adopt the recommendations of the RMS Working Group.”

      That was less than two years ago. I must ask the question; What stakeholders did the RMS Working Group represent in their submission to recommend that all buildings be measured from the inside (paint to paint)? Certainly not Realtors, who have been saddled with the cost of non-legally created measurements.

      To answer your first question on “what are legally-determined measurements?”:

      Real Property is created in the system of real property law of the province. This system is a web of legislation that describes and creates tenure, while also describing its owners rights, restrictions and obligations. It is extensive. For instance, a study of Real Property Law in NB showed that 173 of the province’s 375 Acts created and described the legal structure of real property in the province. Alberta will likely have the same ratio, nearly half. Legal measurements are part of this structure, and are created from the authority of the individual Acts from the legislature and their regulations. However, the RMS appears to have been the creation of RECA and been influenced by actors in the real estate boards, who require its use exclusively by licensees, thereby binding Realtors to list this as information in marketing.

      The RMS is disconnected from the legal measurements used in construction drawings, ignores surveyors standards for the Real Property Report (legal survey showing improvements and required in standard form contacts in Alberta), taxation assessment areas, development permits rules, building permit procedures, re-subdivision plans, municipal and city zoning bylaws, Alberta and Canada building codes and appraisal measurement methodology and areas for insurance purposes. All of which are creations of legislation and are legally created measurements which define the boundaries and limits of the real property which is being transferred.

      When a property is sold, it’s the title that transfers and this is not what is being represented described by the interior measurements.

      The RMS is not a legal measurement because it does not represent what is actually being sold (the legal title). It is a disintegration of information and has serious and long lasting consequences, not the least of which is that the agent is now at expense and risk and because they have been forced by RECA to advertise a different measurement than the property’s building area as that which it was designed, approved and constructed.

      So what’s the purpose of having Realtors provide measurement of interior floor area? No one knows except the RMS Working Group and they remain anonymous. They certainly don’t represent or protect the public. I consider it an intentional attack on the integrity of the real property system of the province. One might reasonably ask the why has the RMS been designed to be deliberately disconnected from the property that is being transferred.

      AM, I’ve winded long enough. I hope that gives you an answer. Should you wish to discuss further I can be reached at [email protected]. I will not be monitoring this post.

      Thanks,
      Frank

  2. When you take the time to understand the reasons Service Alberta reprimanded RECA, taking the unprecedented step of Bill 19 & 20, you will understand that many more questions need to be answered by the Regulator. I encourage every Member to read Mr. McCullough‘s story, thank you sir for taking the time to remind Members who our true advocate is.

  3. As the comments here appear to have gone done the route of whether the RMS makes sense, Mr. McCullough is wrong about one important aspect of the RMS. According to the RMS, detached properties are supposed to be measured using the exterior wall at the foundation, not interior measurements. That’s not a significant departure from how things were before the RMS.

    • Hi AM,
      The RMS does depart from the legal measurements, and that the former RECA decided to use and attack those defending the existing system without any reason or apparent understanding of the existing system is the issue. No reason is available why the legal dimensions are not used. Although the RMS had included exterior measurements on detached property, my information is that there was a continued effort by the committee involved in pushing this notion of interior measurements and who were attempting to make the final leap to measuring detached property to interior only when the committee pushing this was stopped, I assume by the new RECA overseer, earlier this year. Hopefully this continued nonsense of the past three years will now be stopped and the RMS reverted so Agents and property owners they represent can sell the legally determined dimensions.

  4. Hi Brian,

    As to the premise for the interior wall to wall measurement I could never understand and so cannot comment.   There was to explanation why the legal measurements were not considered the basis of the area calculations, and as I mentioned it was delivered as an immediate directive without allowance for insight.  I never heard who were the names behind this and as it was clearly not a professional system design, I expect those involved will remain in the shadows.  

    I had over 100 signatures on an online petition and proposal for integration to the existing legal measurements before it was delinked from the CREB users private site.  Apparently RECA had snooped the private Calgary Board website comments section, even though not being a member of the board, they had been denied access.  I made advances for my concerns directly to the CREB board of directors who refused to allow me to present my argument to them (more important things) and when I presented my argument to the Board of Directors of RECA by sending my presentation to the Chair I was immediately sent a letter that I was under “investigation for professional misconduct.”  No further contact was allowed to RECA’s board.  

    Two other agents who were not directly involved in my work, but whom understood of the implications of the changes were the same day threatened with similar charges.  Completely bogus. I then made more than one approach to the then Minister of Supply who was responsible for the Act and RECA about the threat to my charter rights.  Even though she was also the MLA  for the riding where I live, she refused meeting. 

    Good luck fighting “city hall” as they have your taxes to pay for their defence.

    As far as I know the RMS is still a mess and I still believe that work must be done to realign the RMS with existing real property legal measurements.  

    The important thing here Brian, is that the provincial Real Estate Associations are essential to the professionalism and well being of those who they represent.  I agree, don’t allow cynics (your cancel culture?) to dismiss the Real Estate Associations for their amusement and without any understanding this role.
    I ask readers look at your provincial association and see what programs they have and how they add value to your profession. There is room for agents (those with integrity) to get involved and make a difference.  In the case of this regulator that stepped out of bounds, AREA fought hard over several years (I don’t believe mine was a unique case) and managed to help change the parameters of the Act to stop wrong doing.

    There are likely more stories of agents who have been manhandled that we won’t hear about, because no one can’t afford to lose their license; because you can’t afford to fight “city hall.”  With the new Act, and new direction for RECA, I am hopeful these situations will be in the past in Alberta.

  5. It appears that the cancel culture has invaded even into the regulator’s inner sanctum. It’s called abuse of power.

    Frank: What was/is the premise for RECA’s use of only interior floor space to calculate square footage of a residential building? Were they dumb enough to exclude all interior partition footprints as well? What about ceiling height? Were they concerned about cubic feet of interior space too? How far did they go in order to be precise about what a Realtor should be advertising?

    Maybe RECA would be better suited overseeing the sale of tents…but would that be before or after erection? Either way, the Realtor would likely get effed.

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