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Joseph Richer: Share your thoughts on reforming REBBA

It’s shaping up to be a busy spring at the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). The upcoming launch of the Real Estate Salesperson Program, a review of our Mandatory Continuing Education program, and preparations for our May 16 AGM are all top-of-mind issues at RECO, yet the biggest story (in my opinion) is that RECO’s governing legislation may soon be modernized by the Government of Ontario. This is very good news.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services asked Ontarians to comment through an online survey and feedback on a consultation paper about possible changes to the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 (REBBA). The government’s consultation paper presented a number of options to enhance industry professionalism and consumer protection, modernize regulation and promote a strong business environment.

The government is looking for innovative ways to achieve its objectives, and is in the early stages of possible reform of the legislation by obtaining feedback from the public. Consumers, real estate salespeople and brokers, and policy experts will all have their say, and the government – elected by the people – will amend REBBA as it deems necessary to serve the public interest.

RECO administers REBBA and its Code of Ethics on behalf of the Government of Ontario. RECO’s agreement with the government requires us to keep the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services updated on what’s going on in the marketplace, and to provide policy advice. Here are a few thoughts.

RECO believes REBBA and the code have served Ontario consumers well, but the legislation could be updated to better protect consumers and maintain strong public trust in the profession.

Changes to REBBA must balance the interests of consumers and registrants, buyers and sellers, and Ontarians in rural and urban centres. Consumer protection is important, but it must be balanced and not be drawn to the point that it creates an unnecessary administrative burden or red tape for salespeople, brokers and brokerages.

In 2017, RECO submitted a number of recommendations on REBBA reforms to strengthen consumer protection and confidence in the real estate brokerage industry. They’re available on the RECO website. We developed our recommendations to reflect modern regulatory practices and accomplish four key objectives:

  • Preventing or prohibiting conflicts of interest;
  • Eliminating or significantly reducing financial incentives to act unethically;
  • Providing RECO with appropriate tools and penalties to respond to harm; and
  • Providing consumers with clear, consistent information to make informed decisions, including information regarding the nature of the relationship and services provided.

You might be wondering how these objectives might translate into practical policies; here’s an example from the RECO list.

One of RECO’s key recommendations is to require real estate salespeople, brokers and brokerages to provide consumers with a RECO-created plain language document that would explain the rights and responsibilities of buyers, sellers and the registrants who represent them. It would also present information about navigating RECO’s complaints process if they have concerns about a salesperson or brokerage that can’t be resolved through a discussion with the broker of record.

If you have thoughts or ideas for reforming REBBA to better protect consumers and enhance the industry’s reputation, I encourage you to share them with the government.