Do I need to know if a law has been broken before I file a complaint with RECO? What happens after a complaint has been filed?
The short answer to your question is no, the onus is not on you to determine if the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 (REBBA) has been violated, but if you do file a complaint against a real estate salesperson, broker or brokerage using the Real Estate Council of Ontario’s (RECO) online complaint form, please provide as many details as possible and submit any relevant documents or other materials so it’s easier for us to make that assessment.
Reporting your complaint helps us protect the public and allows us to enhance education and practice guidelines for the industry. That said, before you file a complaint, we ask that you first try to discuss the issue with your salesperson and possibly with their Broker of Record (the brokerage manager) because many complaints or simple misunderstandings – such as unreturned phone calls or a perceived lack of communication – can be resolved at that level with a frank dialogue. My experience is that businesses want to resolve matters; it’s generally good for business.
Generally speaking, the industry is highly committed to meeting RECO’s consumer protection standards; in fact, on an annual basis, 25 to 30 per cent of the complaints we receive come from individuals who are registered with us: salespeople and brokers.
Should you decide the issue can’t be resolved at the brokerage level and you must file a complaint, RECO will conduct an investigation, and usually ask you to provide additional information and documents. Meanwhile, the subject of your complaint and their brokerage will be notified that a complaint has been made, and they will be given an opportunity to respond. Regardless of the outcome, you will be advised of our decision.
Every complaint is unique, so the time needed to close a case file depends upon the nature of the allegation and the information that’s available to us. For conduct that is supported by sufficient evidence and is within our mandate, disciplinary actions can range from education requirements and fines up to $50,000 for individuals ($100,000 for brokerages). Violations of REBBA are referred to the Ontario Court of Justice.
If we’re concerned that a salesperson will not obey the law, will not act with honesty and integrity, or is financially irresponsible in their business dealings, RECO can take steps to suspend or revoke their registration. This happens in a very small percentage of cases.
Keep in mind that RECO can’t get you out of a legally-binding agreement with a brokerage or another party, and we don’t have the authority to resolve monetary or contractual disputes or to assess or award damages. Discuss your options with a lawyer if you’re considering any legal action.
If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.