Winnipeg Realtors can now have another job aside from selling real estate, after members of WinnipegRealtors approved an amendment to a longstanding bylaw.
The amendment does away with a bylaw known as “the other occupation” rule that forbade Realtors in Manitoba’s capital from working elsewhere.
“Basically, no longer is it possible for WinnipegRealtors to tell a member, a salesperson, that they cannot have another occupation and still practice real estate within our membership,” says Peter Squire, vice-president, external relations, market intelligence at WinnipegRealtors.
Squire says he does not know how many WinnipegRealtors members are affected by the change.
The amendment was among those approved by members at an Oct. 4 meeting on governance. Changes to the association’s bylaws and constitution were made after a task force was set up earlier in the year to review its governance.
The bylaw was deemed not to be in compliance with current civil and criminal law, federal privacy and competition laws and the current regulatory environment, Squire says. WinnipegRealtors received legal advice from its legal counsel and CREA.
The other occupation rule previously said a Realtor with other sources of income could be questioned by WinnipegRealtors, Squire says. “It’s been on the books for awhile. I don’t think it was something that we closely monitored in any way. We didn’t have an enforcement regime. Never have.”
About 250 voting members participated in the vote and strongly supported the change. (Realtors must be members for at least two years to have voting rights.) “It was a good turnout,” he says. “I think we did the right thing in putting the amendment in front of our membership.”
Although some touted the bylaw as a ban on part-time agents, Squire says the previous bylaw did not require WinnipegRealtors members to work full-time in real estate sales.
“We’ve never said members can’t be part-time. It’s that if they had another occupation, that’s where it became problematic,” Squire says. “We had part-time Realtors before. If they were working a full-time position and still doing real estate, that’s where that became an issue with our association over many years.”
In the early 1990s, REM reported that the federal Bureau of Competition Policy (now the Competition Bureau) took the Winnipeg Real Estate Board (as it was then known) to court over the rule. The claim alleged the Winnipeg board refused to grant membership to part-time sales reps and had taken disciplinary action against members employing part-timers.
The original case was dismissed by the Federal Court in 1991 and an appeal by the Attorney General against the Winnipeg board and CREA was dismissed by the Federal Court of Appeal.
In another change, WinnipegRealtors members agreed on Oct. 4 to increase maximum fines from $10,000 to $50,000 in arbitration hearings that involve internal disputes among members.
WinnipegRealtors deals with arbitration disputes among members, while public complaints are handled by the Manitoba Real Estate Association.
The increase in potential maximum fines is aimed at improving deterrence, Squire says. “We want to ensure that professionalism is maintained and is as high a standard as we can make it and that’s partly why the fine regime has changed.”
Squire says WinipegRealtors conducted extensive consultations on the amendments, with 23 sessions members could attend. “It was really a significant effort to bring this to the members’ attention as to why we were bringing forward these amendments and explaining why they were important.”
More possible bylaw changes will be looked at next year.
WinnipegRealtors has a membership of more than 1,900 people, up from about 1,500 during the last 10 years.
Squire says Winnipeg remains one of the most affordable major markets in the country for housing, but that tightened federal mortgage regulations have made it tougher for some first-time buyers to qualify for loans.
Sales are “down seven per cent this year compared to last year,” but “we still think we’re having a relatively good year,” given that 2016 and 2017 were the best years ever for real estate in the city.
Squire says WinnipegRealtors is getting the message across to buyers that while they may not qualify for a particular home in a particular neighbourhood, that there are many alternatives, including condominiums.
One of the most active price ranges in the city is condos priced between $150,000 and $200,000.
“You’re not going to be able to get that kind of price for a condo in Toronto or Vancouver,” Squire says. “That’s one thing we’re stressing. But we’re still being impacted by (the mortgage regulations).”