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5 things to know about Ontario’s new real estate act

The long-awaited changes to the real estate agent and brokerage community in Ontario just had its initial release, mostly to positive reviews from the industry. The draft bill to change the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 has not yet been approved and contemplates further changes. The new act will be called the Trust in Real Estate Services Act, 2019. Here are the main points you need to know.

1. Real estate agents will be able to incorporate.

The real estate industry has been requesting this for years, so that real estate professionals could enjoy the same tax advantages of other professional groups such as doctors, lawyers and accountants. Incorporation should also provide extra protection from liability. Incorporation is not for everyone and once the rules are clarified, agents must discuss this with their own accountants to make sure that this is right for them. Still, great news.

2. No more customers, you are either a client or you are self-represented.

There has been a lot of confusion over the years in trying to explain to a member of the public as to whether they should become a client or customer of a real estate brokerage and the differences between the two. While there currently is a duty to be fair to customers, there was an extra level of care owed to clients. An agent can give advice to a client, not a customer. This is easier said than done. Under the proposed new rules, you are either a client of the brokerage, or you represent yourself. Makes it much simpler. Remember the old adage, “when you represent yourself, you have a fool for a client.” Applies in just about everything you do.

3. Multiple representation will still be permitted.

This is also great news for the industry. Real estate brokerages will still be able to represent both the buyer and the seller in the same deal. It is not clear whether the same agent will be permitted to act for both the buyer and the seller. This will also have to be reviewed more carefully when further clarification is provided.

4. Sellers may be able to disclose the highest price to a competing buyer.

It appears that in a bidding war, a seller may obtain the option to disclose to one of the other buyers the price that one of the buyers is willing to pay. This is currently not permitted today. Again, the actual language will have to be reviewed to determine the circumstances when this may occur.

5. Penalties are increasing if you break the rules.

It is proposed that fines to real estate agents and brokerages be increased to $50,000 for any agent to $100,000 for the brokerages if you violate the rules, including the REBBA 2002 Code of Ethics. This is just part of the new protections to give the public more assurance that real estate agents and brokerages are held to a higher professional standard.