By Tim Hudak
This year, half a million Ontarians will buy and sell a home in our province. The overwhelming majority of them will put their trust in the hands of a Realtor.
With so much on the line, Ontario home buyers and sellers have a right to expect that the Realtor by their side has the highest professional standards in North America, is the best educated and has access to modern business tools including personal real estate corporations.
Thankfully, the Ontario government wants that too. On Nov. 19, the province introduced Bill 145, the Trust in Real Estate Services Act (TRESA). If passed, TRESA will modernize Ontario’s outdated real estate rules while strengthening consumer protection and fixing the broken real estate discipline system.
Here’s what TRESA means to Ontario home buyers, sellers and Realtors.
Buying and selling real estate is a complex, fast-moving undertaking full of potential legal pitfalls, involving huge sums of money. Ontario consumers deserve to work with the most up-to-date and best educated real estate professionals in North America – especially when it comes to certain property types.
To raise the bar when it comes to education, TRESA will permit real estate professionals to hold what’s called a specialist certification. For example, consumers looking to buy a commercial property will be able to search for and find a commercial real estate specialist that has been certified by the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) – very similar to the program lawyers have today. More importantly, it will encourage more Realtors to pursue specialty training, making them the most skilled in North America.
TRESA proposes to enhance disclosures in situations involving two consumers working with one Realtor – also called multiple representation. Enhancing disclosures around the practice of multiple representation will strengthen the practice by more clearly outlining the options available to consumers, and the obligations real estate professionals and brokerages have towards them.
Better disclosures in multiple representation situations was a Realtor recommendation and the government wisely chose to protect a consumer’s right to choose a Realtor they know and trust. This is especially important for rural and Northern real estate markets where fewer real estate brokerages operate.
Realtors work hard for their clients’ well-being and protect them in the home buying and selling process. So, they get angry when they hear about a colleague who has taken advantage of a client and broken their trust.
TRESA, if passed, will establish the toughest consumer protection regime for real estate in North America. First, the bill will double the fines for breaches of the act to $50,000 and $100,000. Second, the real estate regulator will be given new powers to suspend or revoke licenses for the worst offenders. Finally, to get to the bottom of potential unethical activity quicker, RECO will get clear authority to launch proactive investigations into potential breaches of the act.
Modern business tools
Realtors are some of the most civically engaged and charitable professionals out there. They deserve to be treated fairly when it comes to taxes, which affects the way that they do business.
TRESA treats them fairly by cutting red tape on real estate small businesses and permitting personal real estate corporations (PRECs). This will help Realtors invest more in their businesses, creating new jobs and providing more services to clients. Most other industries in Ontario, as well as most Realtors in other provinces, can already professionally incorporate so it’s time to give Ontario Realtors those same tools to succeed.
I’m proud to say that all of the above were recommendations put on the table by Realtors, through the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA). They treasure the trust of their clients and want to see a higher bar in the profession.
TRESA is also one of the few pieces of legislation in Ontario to receive bi-partisan support with positive and constructive debate in the Legislature led by Minister Lisa Thompson and NDP Consumer Critic Tom Rakocevic and other MPPs.
More than three years ago, Ontario Realtors turned the mirror on their own profession to find ways to improve the home buying and selling experience for Ontarians. Today, we stand one debate and a vote away from passing Bill 145, legislation that will make Ontario a leader in North America once again when it comes to a well-regulated real estate market.
OREA expects TRESA to be called for committee hearings and then pass third and final reading sometime in early 2020. OREA will be working hard after the passage of the bill to make sure PRECs, among others, get implemented as soon as possible. Look for more updates from OREA soon and email us at [email protected] with any questions.