By Joe Richer
Happy New Year! January isn’t everybody’s favourite month; most people associate it with cold weather, a lack of sunshine and larger-than-normal credit card bills. But January is also an excellent time to plan for the future and reflect upon the year that passed. As I mentioned in a previous column, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) will be well-served by a Strategic Plan that will carry us into the next five years, so RECO’s future looks secure.
I’d like to take this opportunity to look back upon a year when we worked closely with the industry to protect consumers and raise the bar for professionalism.
At last year’s town hall events, industry leaders told us there was strong support for making classroom instruction available for those who wish to complete their Mandatory Continuing Education requirements (MCE) that way (we also heard from many people who appreciate the convenience of eLearning), and we should introduce new ways to detect cheating by some registrants who may get other people to complete their MCE courses.
We listened, and we took action in 2018 by hiring an independent consultant and launching a formal review of the MCE program that asked all of our registrants to provide feedback. I look forward to sharing key findings of the MCE review with you in the near future and discussing next steps. We have work to do together.
In the midst of the formal review, RECO’s Education Department continued to improve the MCE program by introducing new elective courses with more assessments and knowledge checks. They also worked diligently with their counterparts at Humber College and NIIT Canada to prepare for the launch of our new Registration Education program in mid-2019.
The MCE review wouldn’t have been possible without some honest and candid feedback from our registrants. Last year’s town halls generated so many thoughtful discussions on key issues that we knew we had to organize another tour, with this fall’s events going to Cambridge, Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Orillia, Windsor, Ajax and Vaughan. We discussed possible reforms to the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 (REBBA), and the steps we’re taking to become a modern regulator and to work with the industry to raise the bar of professionalism.
Many local board members and brokers of record said they appreciate the work RECO does to oversee the real estate brokerage business because it builds public confidence in their profession. They understand the industry needs rules, and they ask us to do everything we can to ensure those rules are clear and understandable. I see their point: drivers know that red and green lights are easier to interpret than a flashing yellow; we are working to provide greater clarity with plain language communications about the issues our registrants care about. A great example would be the Registrar’s Bulletin I issued in the spring regarding the use and misuse of lockboxes.
Most registrants understand their duties and responsibilities when it comes to lockboxes, but we saw the need for a clear message to help everyone better understand the importance of using them properly.
In most cases, lockbox rule violations can be chalked up to laziness, carelessness or simply bad judgment rather than any malicious intent but giving somebody free and unsupervised access to someone else’s home is a serious breach of trust and privacy.
We expect brokers of record to take a leadership role in ensuring compliance with the REBBA and the Code of Ethics across their brokerage. One salesperson’s failure reflects on the brokerage and the profession as a whole; every registrant has a stake in doing it right.
It’s still too early to assess the impact of the bulletin, but local boards have applauded its release, and a number of them have told me it has prompted brokers of record provincewide to inform their employees that rule violations won’t be tolerated. I find that very encouraging.
Let’s build upon the momentum of 2018 by making 2019 the year we work together to raise the bar for professionalism. If we don’t do it together, who will?