By Joseph Richer

Everyone agrees that consumers have more information about real estate transactions at their disposal than ever before, and that has led to higher expectations for brokers and salespeople, and for the Real Estate Council of Ontario as the industry’s Ontario regulator. RECO expects transparency and accountability from the industry, but consumers and RECO’s registrants expect the same from RECO. That’s a big reason why RECO introduced its Service Standards Report Card in October 2017.

Published quarterly, the report card outlines the levels of service the public – including registrants – can expect for most services (wait times to speak to a RECO representative in person or over the phone, or to process either a complaint or a registration) under normal circumstances. For example, RECO established a benchmark of processing new salesperson applications within 10 business days, and a report card target of at least 80-per-cent success in hitting that benchmark; in the fourth quarter of 2018, RECO’s staff achieved a 94-per-cent success rate.



To be a modern regulator, RECO must provide timely and helpful service. Consumers and registrants who contact RECO with inquiries or to file a complaint need to know what they can expect in terms of timely service. RECO is committed to meeting those expectations. Let me share one success story that speaks extremely well of my colleagues at RECO.

Between 2014 and 2016, RECO had to cope with huge year-over-year complaint volumes. This created an inventory of complaints that made it difficult to move forward. At one point, it took an average of 241 days to process a complaint! This was unacceptable for a modern regulator.

My colleagues established a plan, rolled up their sleeves and worked through the inventory; bold action was required, so bold action was taken. RECO made brokers of record responsible for advertising compliance, and it refined the complaint handling process to better manage compliance inquiries and complaints. Today, RECO has a much more timely and efficient process: in 2018, the yearly average was just 82 days, but in the fourth quarter, on average, it only took only 59 days to process a complaint. That is a 75-per-cent reduction in average processing time.

The Service Standards Report Card is an important measurement, but RECO also ensures its complaints process is fair for all concerned by surveying individuals who contact RECO to lodge complaints, as well as the registrants who are the subjects of those complaints.

RECO’s survey data showed 69 per cent overall satisfaction with the complaints process, which is up from 59 per cent the year before. And RECO’s complaints process showed marked improvements in six out of seven categories from 2017.

There’s certainly room for improvement, but the numbers indicate RECO is on the right track regarding service standards. I’m confident those numbers will continue to improve in 2019.

RECO’s AGM

Did you watch RECO’s most recent Annual General Meeting (AGM) on May 16? My colleagues, then-chair Jody Lavoie, CEO Michael Beard and I presented RECO’s Annual Report and audited financials and discussed a number of important issues, such as working with the industry to raise the bar of professionalism, getting the new Real Estate Salesperson Program ready to launch, and taking RECO’s Mandatory Continuing Education program from good to great.

I’m pleased to report that the AGM was viewed by a record number of people – registrants and interested members of the public. Michael and Jody provided thoughtful answers to some great questions, and we enjoyed an opportunity to hear from Ontario’s Minister of Government and Consumer Services, the Honourable Bill Walker, on his government’s plans for the industry.

If you would like to watch a recording of the livestream broadcast of the AGM, or download a copy of the Annual Report, check out the RECO website.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Based on my family’s experience and RECO taking over 1,000 days to conclude our matter with hundreds of pages of evidence provided…I would never invest the time filing a complaint in the future.

    RECO collected a $20,000 fine but my time investigating, providing materials and taking almost a full day off meeting with RECO as per their request remained unnoticed.

    • Sean:

      The conclusion of your first sentence says it all. It is a testament to the stonewalling theory; Throw up time-consuming and energy-consuming barriers and hoops to jump through that will eventually wear out the complainants…and they will simply go away. Bureaucracies view all complaints as frivolous unless pursued vigorously, no matter the stonewalling. In the end it is all about favourable statistics. “No stain on our reputation; the statistics say so!” puffed the bureaucrat.

      Most people are apathetic when it boils right down to fighting back when wronged against a monolithic bureaucracy. They realize that the game is rigged against them, no matter the official claims to the contrary. They feel beaten before they even ‘think’ about fighting city hall, or in this case, a reasonable facsimile of city hall.

      I think that there are conscientious people working within RECO’s halls, but even ‘they’ have to abide by the entrenched “us against them” culture that exists within. Written and stated corporate mission statements are one thing, but in-house behaviour and attitudes (reality) is quite another.

      You came up against the latter reality.

      The Realtor’s fine payment should have gone to you, not to RECO. You have suffered the prospect of future financial damages (property not worth what you paid for it; you will not be able to sell same for what it should sell for), and, you simply did not get what you contracted for, and thus paid for. Sue for it. Don’t let the system beat you. Regenerate your energy. Fight the good fight.

      • Than Brian for responding to my post and your advice.\

        I have forward an email to RECO (general counsel, registrar and deputy registrar) and included the lawyer assigned to our civil matter.

        The lawyer assigned to defend the realtor under RECO’s insurance program has taken the position in writing that the disciplinary proceeding has nothing to do with the civil matter.

        So despite RECO’s own internal investigation and the realtor agreeing to a Statement of Facts relative to inaccurate marketing materials and inaccurate lot dimensions in our Purchase Agreement, and paying a $20,000 fine…this has no relevance.

        The fact the realtor was representing the home builder as a client and my family as a customer which to me is dual agency…it seems the facts being agreed to in the disciplinary matter have relevance to the civil matter. Does the lawyer in the civil matter really think the facts are going to change?

        Regardless, I put my best foot forward. I put together an 83 slide PowerPoint presentation containing all the evidence. The realtor advertising himself as the Director of Sales and Marketing for the new home builder. A complete social media investigation that contains copies of the builders web page from June 2000 which the realtor is titled Director of Sales and Marketing.

        I’ve provided some 29 videos prepared by the realtor marketing previous subdivisions and the subdivision my family purchased in.

        I’ve included case law with cases that have the exact same parallels as our claim. One of which is a Court of Appeal decision.

        I’ve provided RECO and it’s insurance program site photos of our lot and compared it to a court that has 40 foot front property lot lines.

        I’ve included aerial photos of our court and compared it to a neighbouring court to demonstrate how much larger our front property and court would have been.

        I’ve also included copies of the incorrect marketing materials for phase 2 of our subdivision and when this problem became known, the marketing materials for phase 2 were corrected allowing the realtor to rely on correct and accurate marketing materials.

        I’ve provided RECO’s Insurance Program a copy of the Certified Plan of Subdivision. The Certified Plan of Subdivision was available in October 2014 and my family took possession and closed in June 2015…9 months after the subdivision was Certified. The Certified Plan of Subdivision that was available to the realtor 9 months before our closing had every legal dimension of each lot for phase 1.

        The realtor also received an email from the Civil engineer advising the marketing agents should be properly marketing the lots. The realtor received this email 2 months prior to my family moving in.

        The PowerPoint presentation has all the objective evidence for RECO’s Insurance Program to do the right thing and make an effort to sit down with my family to talk.

        I note the lawyer defending the realtor under the Insurance Program has not provided any objective evidence or case law to support their position of denying my family’s claim.

        I was under the impression the RECO’s Insurance Program protects Ontario consumers when a realtor makes a mistake. That’s what I read.

        https://www.reco.on.ca/buyer-seller-news/pros-cons-working-real-estate-agent-instead-selling-home/

        https://www.thestar.com/life/homes/2017/02/04/why-your-real-estate-agent-should-have-a-reco-certificate-ask-joe.html

        If the realtor didn’t make a mistake, then why would the realtor under the advice of his own counsel for the disciplinary proceedings agree to a Statement of Facts to 6 Code of Ethic breaches and agree to pay a $20,000 fine?

        I think it would be extremely helpful if RECO takes time to explain it’s Insurance Program to Ontario consumers and what is required in the claims process should an Ontario consumer tender a claim.

        Here I thought if I was co-operative, provided all the objective evidence and presented everything in a fair and reasonable manner while expressing a sincere opportunity to meet with representatives of the Insurance Program…we could work together towards a fair and reasonable solution.

        • Dear Mr. Flynn

          In your civil action, what does your legal counsel say as to where or if Title Insurance fits into this brouhaha? Relative to purchaser due diligence?

          Did your closing legal representative discuss title insurance with you at any time or (read) review the insurance policy fine print with you re: any title insurance that related to your purchase.

          It’s always a surprise to learn that lawyers often say, when there is an issue of any kind, even when discovered a few days before closing; “Don’t worry about it. Title insurance will take care of “it.” (whatever “it” is)

          Thank you for sharing your situation with our REM forum. It apparently is a good example as to how the system works, providing an educational opportunity for readers within the structure as well as for public awareness.

          Carolyne L 🍁
          (Disclaimer: I voluntarily put my licence on hold and I am not practicing currently due to medical related required hiatus.)

  2. We have the public themselves to blame for demands through Queen’s Park and Federal bodies that want access to files that Treb and other organized Realtor Boards across the country have fought for over the past 50 years, lobbied against the release of membership information, listing information and sold statistics be available free of charge that us as members have to pay dearly for every year just to keep the public informed of whats happening also government bodies allowing and promoting commission free & no set fees ( Anti Combines Act ) , no call lists, that Realtors have to survive through, in short lived good times and longer periods of poor market activity, where only 50 % of the membership is involved in only one deal a year as stated in a previous article.
    The costs and education requirements, insurance a practicing Realtor is required and endure is falling on deaf ears, as we consistently have to keep up with changing times ,legislation against Laundering of Money, Fraudulent Activity by Buyers and Sellers themselves, as well as with continually adding a paper trail of every activity we perform to complete a transaction, is proof that we are held accountable for every move we make, yet it is not enough and are also penalized with enormous fines or a licence being revoked if a transaction goes sour for a Seller or Buyer like a common criminal.

    If the general public could survive 3 months to 6 months without a paycheck in this industry as a profession they then would have a better understanding of the responsibility of trying to convey someone else’s problems to another party without disclosure ,unforeseen hidden or latent defects that may occur much later after a conveyance is reflected in the statement ” Let the Buyer be Aware ” but means nothing in the industry. Granted perhaps a few Realtors may be only in the business for the quick money when it can be had, but are disillusioned like the public.

    The statement of someone doing one deal a year is not recommending they ( a Buyer presumably ) see a Lawyer is foolish, if true, as he or she themselves are articling for a two year period before they are given permission to act fully without first getting permissions on written contracts given by The Broker of Record.
    The vast majority of the public are looked after to the fullest extent of the law but again are all painted with the same brush and said to be not acting in good faith in the interest of the client. .

    Realtors are blamed for the rise of prices in a ” demanding Market ” and are are blamed as well when we ask for a reduction in prices when supply outstrips demand to adjust for the market and economy of the country that we have no control over.
    For an Industry with the number of members presently that are involved, I feel RECCO themselves are doing an excellent job in keeping up with the most important situations first,as frivolous complaints would bog down the system and the real violators would get through the cracks with the intensive scrutiny required when filing a claim is encountered.
    The Broker’s of Record ( Franchisee ) are accountable for their representatives activities however with the enormous sale staffs of some firms and to the best of their ability it is impossible to check every contract , paper amendment that is ever written and more difficult when teams operate under other representatives within and conduct business themselves, as some are operating without a Broker’s Licence should be looked into and required to remain a Sales Representative until he or she achieves ” A Broker Title ” to have a team if they want to remain under the parent franchise umbrella.

    Some form of law is broken daily and we live in a learning society as every Industry including the Governing bodies that run the country themselves are or will change due to public demonstrations, pressures , news etc.just to be in power and Organized Real Estate Practitioners will survive the next 50 years despite the few that continue to be uninformed or ignorant despite of whats put on their plate.

  3. My personal experience with RECO. My family purchased a new home. The builder used a realtor. The realtor had a long standing relationship with the builder since 2000. The realtor produced many videos marketing subdivisions and homes for the builder. My family throughout the real estate transaction never met the builder. Everything was conducted through the realtor.

    We purchased a home on a pie lot. The dimensions in our contract was the following, Front property line 44 feet, side 109 feet, back 98 feet and side 129 feet.

    The lot delivered to us was front property line 32 feet, side 103 feet, back 98 feet and side 129 feet. Our front yard on our new home is 12 feet less in width.

    This became apparent when the corner lot foundation was being dug out and poured.

    I later learned this issue also involved 4 other homes on our court.

    My family moved into our home June 2015. When I conducted my own investigation afterwards, I learned the subdivision was certified and all lot dimensions were known October 2014. The realtor had access to the certified plan of subdivision and surveys for 8 months to identify this issue.

    The marketing materials were wrong for our phase. This was presented to the realtor and the builder. The marketing materials for phase 2 were then corrected to demonstrate the correct lot dimensions.

    RECO complaints were filed in May 2016. RECO conducted its own investigation and found no evidence of wrong doing against the realtor. In October 2016 RECO’s investigator came to the following conclusion, “it was reasonable for you to rely on the accuracy of the marketing materials and lot dimensions provided by the builder and/or the design company”. RECO closed it’s file.

    I wrote to the CEO of RECO Kate Murray and provided documents contained in my own investigation. My investigation included 29 videos of the realtor marketing past subdivisions and virtual tours for the builder. Social media documents of the realtor holding titles of director of marketing. I provided past RECO decisions and case law that contradicted RECO’s investigation and findings. A realtor is responsible to ensure accuracy of any materials they are relying upon.

    After investing a significant amount of time, RECO reopened their file. After 1,001 days the realtor agreed to the statement of facts in February 2019 for various Code of Ethic breaches in his failure to ensuring accuracy.

    The realtor also agreed to pay a $20,000 fine.

    It took 3 years for a relatively simple case to be concluded. I refer to Lutz v. 1020618 Alberta Ltd., 2010 ABPC 15

    A claim was presented to RECO’s Insurance Program. The program promoted by RECO that protects Ontario consumers when a mistake is made by realtor.

    After our claim was tendered to RECO’s Insurance Program, approximately 2 months later my family received a letter from a law firm flat out denying our claim and taking the position there is no liability on the realtor.

    At no time did any representative contact my family, take statements, conduct a visit to our lot and take measurements or request any further documents.

    Just a flat our denial.

    That is my family’s experience with RECO and working with a realtor.

    • Sean:

      Thank you for taking the time to submit your story in a very methodical and factual manner. Unfortunately, your negative experience with bureaucratic stonewalling is not the first nor will it be the last.

      There are many good, honest, ethical Realtors out there in the field. Alas, there are also a good many bad, dishonest, unethical, and just plain lazy/negligent Realtors out there as well. You managed to get hooked up with one of the latter used-car-type pure sales people. There has always been, there still is, and there will continue to be a penchant for Organized Real Estate to continually reel in incompetents and generally ill-suited to-the-importance-of-the vocation wannabes who have, who continue to, and who will ‘continue’ to sully the reputation of the industry as a whole. Your last sentence reveals an important reality on ‘two’ fronts, however. “That was my family’s experience with…working with a Realtor.” One Realtor, ‘your’ Realtor, managed to poison the entire barrel in your mind. That is how the public perceives events such as yours as well. Thus, Organized Real Estate, by traditional and ongoing dint of not dealing professionally with the proper development of future Realtors, continues to rightfully deserve to bear the stigma of being a corrupt insider mob. Organized Real Estate continues to be very unfair to the good guys and good gals who wear the Realtor pin. Now for the RECO equation.

      There is only one RECO. There are no other RECO’s to choose from as there are Realtors to choose from. The public is stuck with RECO, and RECO knows this. How could it not know that? Thus, RECO possess an ‘untouchable’ cultural personality. This is simply how monopolistic bureaucratic entities operate. There is no accountability to you or to any other member of the public on the part of bureaucracies. They are unelected entities. So then, how to deal with a bureaucracy that seeks to protect its own brand—not to mention its claims’ insurance premiums—when challenged by the public—-at the expense of the public—- which seeks to engage RECO for legitimate assistance? You push back…hard. You sue RECO, the Realtor ‘and’ the builder in small claims court for the maximum allowable. You don’t need a lawyer to do this. Been there, done that…successfully I might add. Your cost? Less than $250. to register your claim and produce paperwork for the court (in Ontario at least). Go for the $20,000. fine that the Realtor paid to RECO at the very least. Sue each entity independently if need be. RECO flip-flopped, but only because you persisted. RECO, in your case, proved itself to be somewhat akin to the Catholic church’s bureaucratic penchant for covering up its corrupt, perverted cadre of criminal clergy members in pursuit of protecting its already sullied brand. RECO protected its Realtor member—and itself ‘and’ its insurance company’s vested interest—until it could no longer do so with a straight bureaucratic face. Bureaucracies are all the same.

      You have done the right thing by writing to REM with your story. People need to publicize their negative experiences with the untouchables. Maybe you should consider contacting the CBC (Marketplace), CTV (Pat Doran), The Toronto Star (Rosie Di Mato), The Globe and Mail etc. Go for it. It will do your heart good. You will feel energized. You will not be a door mat. You will be the vacuum cleaner that sucks up the dirt and dumps it into the garbage bin. You will be cleansed. Vengeance is sweet indeed.

    • Ahhhh the confusion.

      RECOs errors and omissions insurance is designed to protect the REALTOR not the public.

      Martindale below is 100% correct and this should be a very simple case to take to small claims court.

      That said……RECO failed to explain the power of going after the Brokerage and Broker of Record which I have no idea why they kept this secret. You see the Brokerage and Broker of Record are responsible for the actions of their sales staff and clearly they did not establish brokerage policies to protect you their client.

      I really wonder how Agency was explained to you in this process because either you were not supplied a full disclosure of facts on the relationship this sales rep had with this builder or you were not encouraged to speak to your lawyer prior to signing this deal.

      Most REALTORs in Ontario lack the ability to fully explain agency in a manner that meets the REBBA 2002 requirements in situations like this as they refuse to inform consumers of their rights and options. It appears this sales rep lead you to believe it was OK for you to buy a home under a Dual Agency representation agreement when in fact that really should have been outlawed in 2002.

      I would add all Commissions in this deal should have refunded to you with one simple phone call to the Brokerage and Broker of RECORD.

      Lets be honest you purchased a home with a 37% larger lot than what you actually were delivered. This will have massive financial consequences when you go to sell this home in 2044 as your loss could be in the 100s of thousands by that time.

      It is imperative you recover these fees one way or another. You already have a decision from RECO that you were mislead by the sales rep. This should be a very simple and quick case to resolve with one phone call to the broker of record or the Franchise Brand head office the brokerage is licensed to use.

  4. RECO is the witness to a drive by shooting who clearly sees the person pulling the trigger but fails to act on that knowledge.

    RECO report card is worthless because those giving the grades have not been supplied all the facts. RECO has enacted the organized real estate’s communication strategy where 1/2 truths and partial explanations hide the facts from the public keeping them in the dark.

    Bob is right and everyone knows it. There are 1000s of REBBA violation enacted daily but RECO has abdicated responsibility that would cause them to be addressed to protect the public.

    RECO Joe has accepted this false narrative that the consumer themselves ( you know folks who maybe do a real estate deal once ever 15 years) are responsible to hold sales reps and brokerages to account.

    Where is the advice for the Consumer to Contact their Lawyer before the sign any contract presented by a brokerage? It defies logic when 50% of the sales reps in Ontario do not see one contract in a year are allowed to give advice to the public without at least a first recommendation to have their lawyer look at it first.

    Sooner than later a smart lawyer will target one multi-office brokerage for a lawsuit on undisclosed dual agency, a practice that has been openly endorsed by RECO since REBBA 2002 became law. Millions of Ontario families have been financially damaged because of RECO’s failure to enforce REBBA and inform the public of best practices they should be following to protect themselves.

  5. RECO’s work on improving its processes are to be applauded but as the article states, “There’s certainly room for improvement”. This is absolutely true. As per the article “RECO made brokers of record responsible for advertising compliance”. This has led to an almost complete free-for-all with respect to signage and advertising.The process for filing complaints is so cumbersome and tedious that only the most egregious violations are reported and even many of those go unreported because salespeople and brokers are not willing to take the time and risk harming relationships by having to take on a task that rightly belongs to RECO. Offloading responsibility for complaints from RECO to Brokers of Record is no way to enhance to process or increase compliance.

Leave a Reply