The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) is a modern regulator, and modern regulation is all about preventing problems from occurring in the first place. RECO can’t oversee every single transaction, so one prevention strategy is to educate consumers and real estate professionals about their rights and responsibilities.
RECO communicates with its registrants through several channels, such as the monthly For the RECOrd newsletter, Registrar’s bulletins, e-blasts, online webinar and articles in REM, to name a few. But there’s no substitute for an in-person conversation. Last fall, my colleagues and I continued the momentum of our successful 2017 Town Hall tour by visiting seven communities for a new round of constructive Town Hall dialogues with industry leaders. RECO staff also attended six real estate industry shows and delivered 15 informative RECO Update presentations to local boards in 2018. These outreach initiatives generated over 3,200 face-to-face interactions with registrants.
RECO reaches out to registrants for three key reasons:
Real estate salespeople and brokers let us know what’s happening in the marketplace.
RECO’s administrative agreement requires it to keep the Government of Ontario updated on conditions in the real estate marketplace, and as many of you know, you can learn a great deal by grabbing a coffee and really talking to people who make their living within that marketplace. The industry leaders I’ve met are strongly committed to RECO’s consumer protection mandate, and they apprise my colleagues and me of issues and problems when they emerge.
In a sense, salespeople and brokers are RECO’s eyes and ears; on an annual basis, 25 to 30 per cent of the complaints it receives come from salespeople and brokers. These individuals contact RECO because they take pride in their profession and they care about how it is perceived by the public. In fact, many of the industry leaders who attended RECO’s 2017 and 2018 Town Hall events called for tougher standards and stricter penalties for registrants who break the rules.
Real estate salespeople and brokers understand that consumer protection is a shared responsibility between RECO and the industry.
Whenever I meet with industry leaders, we always agree that strong public trust in the profession can only be maintained by continually raising the bar on professional standards. That job starts with brokers of record making it clear to their employees that unethical and unprofessional conduct won’t be tolerated within their brokerage.
Industry self-policing is a necessary first step to maintaining strong public trust in the profession, but it can’t replace independent public oversight of the sector by RECO. Ultimately, consumer protection is a shared responsibility between RECO and the industry, which means we must talk and work together.
The industry wants RECO’s help, which is why RECO’s staff created social media infographics, videos and informational documents in an online Registrant Toolkit that brokerages can download, customize and share with their clients to provide valuable information.
Real estate salespeople and brokers provide RECO with valuable feedback.
Communication is a two-way street. My colleagues and I regularly contact registrants in order to help them better understand their legal and ethical obligations, but we also value their feedback.
RECO’s registrants remind us that serving the public interest means listening to the industry and making sure necessary regulation to protect consumers doesn’t turn into overly burdensome or unnecessary red tape that results in minimal consumer protection. They also provide RECO’s staff with many good ideas. The Knowledge Management System, a searchable database of checklists, guides and other resources that will be available to all registrants once the Real Estate Salesperson Program launches, was developed largely in response to registrant interest in such a resource.
If you have a great idea to enhance consumer protection or raise the bar of professionalism in the industry, please share it with RECO. My colleagues and I would love to hear it.
In my last column, I discussed some of the highlights of RECO’s review of its Mandatory Continuing Education (MCE) program. The final report and RECO’s response to its key points are now available on the RECO website. I encourage all of you to read the highlights.