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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.