By David Reid

Being a Realtor is about so much more than just buying and selling homes. It’s about the people behind the transaction – the young buyers looking for a place to finally call their own and the empty-nesters selling the family home, a place where they created their fondest memories with family and friends.

It’s no wonder that this financial transaction is filled with so much emotion and deliberation. Every day, consumers put their trust in knowledgeable and hardworking professionals whose job is to help Ontarians through the lifechanging experience of buying or selling a home.



Nothing makes a Realtor happier than helping buyers and sellers navigate through the complexities of the transaction because the joy on their faces when they get the keys is worth every effort. But, nothing makes a hardworking, dedicated Realtor angrier than hearing about a colleague who has taken advantage of a client and broken their trust. They’re angry not just because unethical operators bring down the profession, but because they care deeply about the families they work for every day.

That’s why Ontario Realtors are saying enough. We want to see a strong enforcement regime that deters unethical behaviour, penalizes the bad seeds and kicks offenders out of the profession. We want a regulator that is tough, fair and efficient, that focuses its energies on where problems are.

In my 15 years as a Realtor, and now as the president of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), I’ve heard it over and over again: Raise professional and ethical standards, and discipline those who intentionally refuse to meet them.

The OREA Board of Directors took that feedback and turned it into action. First, we set a goal for the profession: to become leaders in North American real estate professional standards.

Step one was convincing the Ontario government to review the rules governing our profession. The Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002, (REBBA) is a 16-year old piece of legislation that needs to be updated if Realtor are to be held to standards that make sense in today’s modern real estate market. The government agreed.

Step two was consulting with Ontario Realtors on what needs to change. Our REBBA Review Taskforce engaged thousands of members in a conversation about the future of the profession and put together a report outlining recommendations for a new REBBA.

Last week, OREA released the first of three sets of recommendations from our report: Roadmap to a new REBBA: Making Ontario the North American Leader in Real Estate Professionalism. This week, we’re sharing the second set of recommendations on Stronger Enforcement and Discipline.

It outlines five recommendations that will give our regulator, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO), the tools it needs to succeed.

They are:

  1. Give RECO greater investigative powers for the worst offenders: We’re proposing RECO is given the authority to proactively investigate REBBA and Code of Ethics violations, instead of waiting for a complaint to be filed by a consumer or fellow registrant.
  2. Allow for administrative monetary penalties for minor offenses: There’s no middle ground between serious enforcement tools like revocation and simple warnings. We’re proposing that RECO be allowed to use administrative monetary penalties, similar to traffic tickets, to enforce minor offenses, like advertising infractions. The current disciplinary process at RECO for minor infractions clogs up the system and takes the regulator’s focus away from more egregious breaches of REBBA and the REBBA Code of Ethics.
  3. Give RECO the authority to suspend or revoke licenses: We’re recommending the RECO Discipline and Appeals Committee be given authority to revoke and suspend licenses, instead of having this power reside with the License Appeal Tribunal (LAT). In large part because they do not have real estate expertise, LAT has a poor track record of revoking licenses, even in serious circumstances, such as criminal convictions.
  4. Increase the maximum fines for breaches of REBBA and the Code of Ethics. A fine for breaking the rules should be a deterrent, not just the cost of doing business. Maximum fines should therefore be doubled and increased to $50,000 for salespeople and brokers and $100,000 for brokerages.
  5. Kick violent or fraudulent offenders out of the business. Consumers must be able to trust that RECO is keeping violent or fraudulent offenders out of the real estate business and their homes. We’re recommending that RECO be given the authority to deny registration to an applicant with any violent criminal and fraudulent convictions within the last 10 years.

Ontario Realtors want to be leaders in North America when it comes to professional standards. We want buyers and sellers to feel safe and confident when entering one of the biggest transactions of their lives. This starts with modernizing REBBA.

I invite you to learn about all of our recommendations by tuning into a live webcast on Oct. 11 at www.orea.com. And visit www.REBBAReform.ca for a complete list of recommendations to date.

21 COMMENTS

  1. This is the LAST thing we need in this industry. The mere suggestion of such measures implies that OREA believes the industry is running rampant with dishonest, unethical reatlor’s and criminals breaking laws every step of the way. RECO has already been ruled by the Supreme Court of Canada of Abuse of Power. Fines similar to parking tickets? Is OREA now in the business of writing comedy? This would result in absolute craziness given the fact that an individual would have to be given the opportunity to dispute any ticket. To search and seek out evil doers? An old fashion McCarthy style witch hunt to find the enemy. What next spot checks and road blocks. Shake downs at open houses. As a matter of fact the opposite should happen. Less authority at RECO. RECO has excelled in picking low hanging fruit and has taken full advantage of this by a narrow interpretation of the Act. There are court systems in the Province designed for illegal offenses and grudge settlement. If OREA is interested in rising the professional standards of this industry it should lobby for a higher standard of education to become a realtor. Such as a college or university degree course. A lawyer goes to Law School, a Doctor to Medical School, an Accountant studies accounting. All in depth studies over a number of years to qualify to work in the industry. When I got my license I took a three segment program. To say that this was a joke is being respectful of the situation. The courses consisted of an old time realtor reading chapters from a remedial level text book to a room full of cockeyed optimists. As a university student at the time I could not believe that this was considered an educational program. The second place to start is at the brokerage level. Once upon a time brokers were responsible for the actions of their sales representatives. Since the “independent contractor ” came into the market place brokerages have become a business of selling services, supplies and products to sales representatives as well as collecting monthly fees. So the brokerage has shifted out of the real estate industry and in the business of getting people on the monthly billing system. Weather they deem the person as a qualified sales representative or not. I have never seen a realtor go to an interview and not get the job. It may have happened but it is right up there with winning the lottery. The solution is simple. Stop giving out licenses like candy on Halloween, raise the educational standards to attract people with a genuine interest in the industry and willingness to invest the time and effort to become a realtor. If it is time consuming and difficult to get in the front door from the beginning we would be saving time, resources and money from having to kick them out the backdoor at a future date.

  2. Before leaving any comment (except that the penalties cannot be high enough) I would be interested what my fellow realtor consider to be a “part time” agent.

  3. Congratulations and thank you to David Reid and OREA for taking this very important step towards enhancing the professionalism of our industry. The actions of a few continue to blemish the reputation of the vast majority of Realtors who are dedicated, professional and care deeply about their clients. It is time we all took a stand and took away the right of those few ‘bad apples’ to practice real estate and imposed meaningful penalties that remove the benefits of acting without integrity and ignoring the rules. Education is an important part of this but let’s face it – those same ‘bad apples’ are not the ones signing up and spending time taking courses are they? We need something that gets the job done to improve the situation for the ‘great apples’ which constitute the majority of the profession. Well done OREA. Let’s hope RECO responds appropriately.

  4. Enforce the DNCL. It is impossible to report violators. I have tried but no more. Everyone passes the buck. Just yesterday I got my 20th+ call from Remax. I’m on the DNCL. You guys are a joke. It’s all lip service.

  5. Hello Mary Marrello:
    It is impossible for a managing broker to supervise the actions of even one licensee. The M.B. only finds out about misdeeds after they occur and the complaints are only investigated after the fact. What is really needed is that the individual representative be held directly responsible and accountable for his/her actions address all the allegations made against them and pay 100% of whatever penalty that is demanded.
    Egregious complaints should require permanent forfeiture of license. The Brokerage is just an sitting duck scapegoat for The Boards,Associations and Counsels.

  6. If you want to raise the standards of our industry, have only full time sales representatives.
    To further reinforce and raise the professional standards, new agents should apprentice with an experienced agent for one year.
    If a salesperson cannot do a minimum of 4 transactions per year, their licence should be reviewed by RECO as to whether this is a full time agent or not.
    A sales representative is currently an independent contractor that has to have his broker pursue any violations or infractions of conduct by another agent. Instead, I want the permission that we can sue the other agent directly. This would deter agents from abusing the system because they know that the process is lengthy, complicated, and the consequences minimal.
    All convictions should be posted on an easily accessible public web site.

    • Here here !!!!!! Amen. It’s what I have been saying all along. There should be no such thing as a part time realtor ! Also – the size of brokerages should also be reviewed. It is not possible for a broker/manager to ensure the behaviour and practices of 100+ agents.

      • In Winnipeg we are being forced to accept part time realtors by the Competition Bureau who I believe no nothing about the industry

    • I belong to The Winnipeg Realtors. We have always had full time realtors and are now being forced by Competition Bureau to change our rules to allow part time realtors. A step in the wrong direction for sure.

  7. Years of self-regulation have poisoned the industry. Self-regulation is an oxymoron. These are all great ideas and initiatives that need to be followed through to completion. They are however, the symptoms of the real disease. The industry itself has to make a significant shift in attitude. That will only happen when the requirements to get a license in the first place are significantly increased. Pride in the profession will only increase when real professional practitioners feel confident that their colleagues are their equals. When that is fixed, the need to treat symptoms becomes less frequent.

    • The requirements to be a CEO of a publicly traded company are very high yet we still have companies with terrible corporate culture and employees that are “forced” to avoid rules and regulations (pay attention to the news for many examples).

      The idea that increased requirements and increased penalties will magically fix everything only works in theory. Reality is far more complicated.

  8. After 30 years of service as a sales representative I am thrilled to see all of the information in this article being implemented.

    There is one thing I have always wanted. The privilege of helping people buy and sell homes comes with a license. My recommendation would be to follow a similar rules system that the Ministry uses to suspend a Driver’s Licence – a points and fine system.

    This could also connect to RECO’S Insurance Costs somewhat like the Driver’s record does.

    Why should a registrant that has never had hearing or fine imposed in 30 years pay the same insurance costs a registrant who has had multiple fines?

    I would love to hear any thoughts about this.

    • This does make a lot of sense and scaling some of the proposals in line with this as well. The comments below about punishments and threats of punishments not being entirely correlated with a perfect industry are very much on point and could be addressed with a system like this.

      OREA would do well by consulting the people who pay them dues.

  9. I like the emotional appeal – like going to church and praying for the destruction of the non-believers. And yet the scripture says:”Let him, who has never sinned, pelt the first stone”. It also smacks of Trump style conservatism in the guise of re-inventing globalism.
    Being a very senior, conducting business from Nam days, and a Realtor for over 30 years, I note the following:
    If many many penalties, some ultimate, make the world ‘pure’, Soviet Russia (and KGB!) would have been blessed by the Heavens. Punishments, or threats of punishments, do not make a flawless real estate trader. Education (mixed with good condiments, like of lots publicity – a milder term is ‘public awareness’), would have a much far-reaching effect. RECO needs less Trumpism and KGB-ism for the public it serves to be trust-worthy. Thank you,

  10. So happy David Reid is on the record demanding RECO enforce REBBA more readily.

    This should be taken as a warning to any OREA member that when you willingly and openly violate REBBA, whether you are the President of OREA or a regular member, David’s article can be used to support your complaint.

    I suspect most OREA members still are ignorant to REBBA and the printed instructions of the RECO because the vast majority are in violation today.

    What is that saying about “casting the first stone” ?

  11. add: when a salesperson transfers brokerages, the new brokerage can request from RECO any past convictions of the person transferring to help them decide whether they want this person representing them.

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