I’ve heard the provincial government wants to reform the laws governing real estate salespeople and brokerages. What sort of changes are being considered?

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services announced that it wants to hear from the public about modernizing the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 (REBBA). You can comment through an online survey and feedback on a consultation paper, both of which close on March 15. If you want to share your thoughts on this subject I encourage you to do so fairly soon. My colleagues and I at RECO believe REBBA has served Ontario consumers well, but we welcome the opportunity for it to be updated to strengthen transparency and consumer protection.

RECO administers REBBA and its Code of Ethics on behalf of the government. We are required to keep the ministry apprised of developments in the marketplace and provide policy advice. The consensus I’ve heard from consumers, industry leaders and policy makers is that any legislative changes to REBBA should balance the interests of consumers and the industry, buyers and sellers, and Ontarians in rural and urban communities.

The Government’s consultation paper presents a number of options to improve consumer protection, enhance professionalism in the sector, modernize regulation and promote a strong business environment. Balancing all of these needs is tricky, but the Government is looking for innovative ways to achieve the right balance.

Transparency in the offer process, particularly when there are multiple offers, rules around multiple representation (when one salesperson represents more than one party in a transaction) and finding ways for buyers and sellers to better understand their relationships with salespeople and brokerages are of particular importance to my RECO colleagues and me.

As part of an earlier consultation in 2017, RECO submitted a number of policy recommendations. They’re available on the RECO website and I invite you to also read them.

Obviously, I can’t summarize an entire package of policy recommendations here, but I do support educating consumers by requiring salespeople to provide buyers and sellers with a plain-language, consumer-focused guide prepared by RECO. The guide, and possibly other RECO materials, would enhance consumer understanding by explaining the types of relationships and services that salespeople can provide to buyers and sellers. In practice, a brokerage would be obliged to provide a copy of the guide, and then obtain either a signed acknowledgement or an electronic confirmation of receipt before the consumer could enter into a relationship with the brokerage.

Consumers need clear, consistent information to make informed choices. I believe this policy change, along with others the Government is considering would benefit both consumers and the industry.

If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email information@reco.on.ca.

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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