I know RECO is the regulator for real estate salespeople and brokerages in Ontario. What happens after I file a complaint?

While I usually offer advice to home buyers and sellers that will help them make their real estate experiences go more smoothly, what happens on those occasions when things don’t go well?

Salespeople are trained professionals who have passed a series of mandatory courses before they are allowed to trade in real estate. They must conduct themselves ethically, play by the rules and give clients their best service and advice. But, as in any industry, people make mistakes and sometimes have lapses in judgment.

There are more than 90,000 real estate professionals in Ontario who help hundreds of thousands of buyers, sellers, renters, landlords and others each year. RECO receives complaints about a very small percentage of those.

Before filing a complaint with RECO, it is always best to first talk to your salesperson directly about your concerns. If that is not successful, you should then speak to the manager of the brokerage (known as the broker of record) who is responsible for ensuring it complies with the legislation, including dealing with customer issues.

If these avenues are unsuccessful, you may decide to file a complaint with RECO. Our mandate is consumer protection in the public interest and administration of the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 (REBBA), which includes a code of ethics, to which all salespeople must adhere.

RECO has a dedicated team of trained professionals who assess and investigate complaints. Keep in mind it is not your job to know for sure if a real estate salesperson or broker has broken any rules. That will be part of RECO’s investigative process, and we will decide if we have jurisdiction to move forward with your complaint. Generally, RECO takes the following steps:

    • Acknowledge receipt of your complaint, review it and decide whether we have the jurisdiction to deal with the complaint.
    • If we proceed, we will notify the subject(s) of your complaint and their brokerage about the details of the complaint and ask them to respond.
    • We assess the response and further investigate to determine if there are any concerns relative to the law.
    • Where inappropriate conduct has occurred, we apply the necessary sanction to correct the behaviour, including requiring training or education.
    • When necessary, we prosecute the salesperson or brokerage, which could result in a fine, suspension or revocation of their registration.
    • Advise you about the outcome of your complaint.

It’s worth noting that RECO’s powers are set out in legislation and that there are issues beyond our jurisdiction. For example, if you’ve signed a contract, RECO cannot cancel it or change it. Also, RECO has no authority to award financial compensation — if that’s your objective, you would need to consult a lawyer and consider civil options.

If you do want to file a complaint, please go to RECO’s website for details.

This column is for general information purposes only and is not meant as legal or professional advice on real estate transactions.

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.

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