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Joe Richer: What RECO heard at town hall events

Last fall, my colleagues from the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) and I crisscrossed the province to meet with industry leaders in a series of town hall events we held in Cambridge, Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Orillia, Windsor, Ajax and Vaughan. We arranged this round of town halls to discuss some big-picture topics such as the importance of RECO and the industry working together to help raise the bar of professionalism, the educational requirements for real estate salespeople and brokers, RECO’s new Strategic Plan that will help us become a modern regulator, and our work with government to reform the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 (REBBA).

Much like the 2017 town halls, the 2018 events were lively at times, but always thoughtful and respectful. The industry leaders who attended provided a lot of valuable feedback that will help us better understand what’s happening in the marketplace. I’d like to take this opportunity to share a bit of what we heard.

Raising the bar of professionalism:

The industry leaders were engaged and highly committed to working with RECO to raise standards within the profession to better serve and protect consumers. A few attendees told me there’s a perception in the industry that RECO only listens to complaints from consumers, not our registrants, and that some brokers of record could do a better job of fulfilling their regulatory obligations.

Let’s dispel the myth about registrant complaints: we assess every complaint we receive, and we provide the same investigative effort regardless of who contacts us. On an annual basis, 25 to 30 per cent of the complaints we receive come from salespeople and brokers. I think that shows the industry is serious about working with us.

I’ll add that we have worked hard to improve our complaints process, and it now takes an average of about 70 days to resolve a complaint.

The law requires and RECO expects brokers of record to take responsibility for the people they hire. We understand that the size of brokerages today makes it difficult to directly oversee everyone personally, but that can’t be the excuse for looking the other way. Brokers of record must have the right managers and systems in place to do things correctly.

My experience has been that most brokers of record – including the industry leaders who attended the town halls – understand RECO’s expectations and value the work we do to maintain public trust in the profession.

OREA’s proposed REBBA reforms:

My colleagues and I received a number of questions about Roadmap to a New REBBA, the list of recommended changes to REBBA that was released last year by the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA). More specifically, industry leaders wanted to know if the industry’s regulator (RECO) and the industry’s association (OREA) are on the same page.

For the most part, I’d say we are. Our colleagues at OREA put a lot of thought into their recommendations, and I’m glad we’re having important conversations about protecting consumers while balancing the needs of the profession. We need to strike the appropriate balance and the only way to get there is to discuss the benefits and impacts on everyone involved.

In 2017, RECO submitted its own set of recommended REBBA reforms to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. I encourage you to read them on the RECO website.

Personal real estate corporations:

Industry leaders were very interested to hear RECO’s position on the introduction of personal real estate corporations (PRECs). Though we don’t have a position on the government providing salespeople with the option of being taxed as corporations, we would support a system that creates the least disruption or burden on registrants – one that does not require a new class of registration if it is possible to do so. We have to balance the needs of consumers and registrants.

Electronic file storage:

Some of the town hall attendees also asked for clarification on the rules regarding electronic file storage and inquired about whether or not REBBA could be reformed to allow brokerages to store their files outside Ontario. To be clear, it’s perfectly acceptable to store files (electronic or paper) outside of the province so long as there’s at least one copy somewhere in Ontario. The reason is enforcement: RECO needs to be able to access a brokerage’s files during an inspection or an investigation and RECO’s authority applies only in Ontario.

Thank you to everyone who attended the town halls and provided us with valuable feedback.

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