I recently met a young lady who offered to help me sell my house. How do I know if she’s a legitimate real estate agent?

In Ontario, to be eligible to trade in real estate, real estate salespeople, brokers and brokerages must register with the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO), and be employed by a registered real estate brokerage. The short answer to your question is that you can look up potential candidates on our website using a handy search tool conveniently located on every page of our website. The tool allows you to search for brokerages, individual salespeople and brokerages, or generate lists of representatives by city. It will tell you if they’re registered with us, and if they have faced any disciplinary action within the last five years. If you don’t see someone and you have spelled the name correctly, they are not registered.

Our website has a lot of helpful tips and advice that remind consumers of their rights and responsibilities in a real estate transaction. You’ll also find public advisories to inform consumers of important issues or developments in the real estate industry, as well as recent enforcement decisions against representatives who break the rules.

Whenever you buy or sell a property, it’s a good idea to hire a registered salesperson or broker because handling a real estate transaction from start-to-finish can be tricky, and that’s especially true if you’re inexperienced.

The industry knows that RECO takes breaches of the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 (REBBA) and the Code of Ethics very seriously. Salespersons and brokers who contravene the Code of Ethics can face fines, and those who contravene REBBA can face fines, probation, restitution orders and even imprisonment. Serious or repeat offenders can have their registration suspended or revoked. Most salespeople and brokers welcome our enforcement efforts because they build public confidence in the profession; consumers are more likely to use a registered representative to buy or sell a home when they know an organization like RECO is enforcing the legislation that governs the industry.

So far, 2018 has been a busy year for us. From January to the end of July, RECO has participated in 90 discipline matters, issued over $300,000 in fines and launched five proposals to revoke a registration. Our preference is to work with salespeople and brokers and inform them about the rules they must follow to help them stay out of trouble, but we will show our teeth when a friendlier approach hasn’t proven effective.

A final word: with very few exceptions, trading in real estate without RECO registration is a violation of REBBA and can lead to administrative sanctions. If the individual you mentioned isn’t registered with us, and is presenting herself to home buyers and sellers as a legitimate real estate salesperson or broker, please let us know and inform the police.

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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