What sort of complaints does RECO receive about salespeople and brokers, and how do you deal with them?
Investigating complaints is one of the Real Estate Council of Ontario’s (RECO) most important tasks when it comes to protecting the public and ensuring confidence in the province’s real estate brokerage industry. Real estate salespeople and brokers must register with RECO, and they know they can be fined up to $50,000 (fines for brokerages are even higher), removed from the industry, or even face criminal charges if they violate the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 (REBBA) or the Code of Ethics, both of which we enforce.
The profession takes these rules seriously. Did you know that in a given year about a quarter to one third of the complaints we receive about potentially unethical or unprofessional behaviour come from individuals who are registered with us? I think that speaks to a strong commitment to consumer protection among industry leaders, which is a big reason why I strongly recommend working with a registered real estate salesperson or broker when you buy or sell a home.
Every complaint we receive is investigated, but a complaint must be relevant to RECO’s provincially-legislated mandate and backed by evidence for it to proceed within our system. If a complaint meets those criteria, it may be decided in a number of ways, depending on its severity and particular circumstances, such as whether or not this is the first complaint against a salesperson or broker.
You asked about the sort of complaints we receive. All of that information is available in our 2017 Annual Report. Here are a couple of highlights: last year, complaints related to the handling of competing or multiple offers dropped by about a third, compared to 2016. That trend might be attributable to last year’s overall cooling of the real estate marketplace, which may have resulted in fewer multiple offers for homes.
Meanwhile, complaints related to a failure to provide conscientious and competent service increased by a third from 2016, and two new complaint types entered our list of top complaints: presentation of offers, and duty to client. It’s possible that last year’s spotlight on the problems associated with multiple representation (that’s when a salesperson represents more than one party – usually both the buyer and the seller – in a transaction) provided the public with a clearer understanding of the duties a salesperson must perform for their client.
Many disputes between a client and their representative can be settled through a frank discussion, or by talking to the salesperson’s broker of record. For more minor things, we encourage you to start with your salesperson or the broker of record; most businesses want to make things right. But if you know of a salesperson or broker who may have broken the law, or a brokerage that looks the other way, tell us via our online complaint form.
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.