RECO’s dispute resolution process: resolving complaints through increased communication and cooperation

While the events in this article are real, the names used are fictional.

When “Jane” came home one evening to find a key sticking out of the lock in her front door; she wasn’t sure if she should go in. After all, her home was for sale and there was a private showing by a cooperating brokerage that was supposed to have ended just minutes earlier.

After realizing no one was there, she started to worry that maybe the key, which had been taken from the lockbox, had been used to burglarize her home.

While that wasn’t the case, it left Jane with a very uneasy feeling that had she not arrived home when she did, the key sticking out of her front door could have been an invitation for someone to enter her home without permission.

She immediately called her listing salesperson, who then called “John,” the salesperson who had shown the home to prospective buyers.

John was mortified that he had left the key in the door without putting it back in the lockbox. It had been an accident. Since registrants can’t contact the client of another brokerage, he was was unsure about how to go about apologizing for the mistake.

Jane, feeling tense about what could have happened if she didn’t get home when she did, wanted to let RECO know about the event so that other sellers wouldn’t find themselves in a similar situation.

“As part of RECO’s recent consultation with the industry, one thing we heard consistently is that registrants would like to see stronger repercussions for those truly doing ‘wrong’ and more support for those who have made a mistake or a minor infraction,” says RECO Registrar Joseph Richer.

In 2013, RECO introduced dispute resolution for complaints that involve mistakes, misunderstandings or disagreements – it’s often referred to as “mediation.” Dispute resolution is an effective way to make sure all parties to a complaint are heard and have an opportunity to be part of the outcome.

When RECO received the complaint from Jane, the compliance officer assigned to the file got on the phone to hear both sides of the story. It was clear that this had been an accident; John was extremely remorseful about what happened and Jane explained that no harm had been done.

Because of these factors, the complaint went through the dispute resolution process, where John asked to make things right with Jane. This included writing a letter of apology and offering to make a charitable donation to Jane’s charity of choice, in her name. At the end of the process, Jane said she was moved because the outcome was more personal than she had expected.

“Registrants who have been through the dispute resolution process say they appreciate being given the opportunity to apologize and find a way to fix the situation,” says Richer. “And, we have heard similar feedback from consumers.”

While not all complaints are suitable for dispute resolution, particularly those involving malicious conduct or fraud, it’s an approach that is being expanded. That means complaints will be resolved promptly, with an agreement between the parties.

Benefits of dispute resolution

    • The complainant and the registrant agree to a solution. The focus is on resolving the problem, rather than discipline or punishment.
    • Issues are resolved more quickly and with less administrative effort for the parties to the complaint, and for RECO.

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