Sometimes, not everything goes the way it should in the house-buying process. When a complaint is filed against a real-estate sales professional that falls within our authority, and we can find enough evidence to proceed, there are a few different possibilities.
Here are some scenarios:
Misunderstandings and simple disputes. These issues arise when a real estate rep makes a minor mistake that costs the consumer some time or money such as losing a key. Here, RECO might bring the two parties together to resolve the situation. In this example, the sales professional could agree to cover the costs of the key and changing the locks. As long as the consumer is happy with the outcome, no further action is needed.
Other minor issues. For relatively minor issues that can’t be resolved between the parties, RECO can issue a warning, and also may require the individual to take an education course related to the error. A common example occurs when a broker or salesperson does not comply with technical requirements of the law around advertising.
Serious matters. Imagine a situation where a salesperson doesn’t disclose important information and gives one buyer an advantage over the others. That’s a serious violation of the Code of Ethics, so RECO would seek a fine in front of a discipline panel. The committee has the authority to order fines of up to $25,000.
The most serious complaints involve a salesperson or broker who commits fraud or another serious offence, such as practising without being registered with RECO. In these cases, in addition to seeking fines and even jail time in court, we may take steps to suspend or revoke their registration. That means they can no longer trade in real estate.
That’s an action we took 28 times in 2016. On top of that, we laid 79 charges and held 41 discipline hearings.
It’s important to note that RECO takes action to penalize bad behaviour, but in most cases we can’t obtain financial compensation for you. We also can’t undo any binding contract between you and your representative, or between you and the other party to a deal. To recover money or settle contract disputes, you would need to take legal action against the individual, or their brokerage.
RECO exists to ensure brokers and salespeople are following the rules, and that consumers are protected when the rules are breached. Consumer complaints are a major way we learn about emerging issues in the marketplace. Filing a complaint will better help us do our job and identify where problems exist, which ultimately protects your interests.
Joseph Richer is registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He oversees and enforces all rules governing real estate professionals in Ontario. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org . Find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at youtube.com/RECOhelps .