Real estate agents found guilty of breaking the Real Estate Council of BC’s strict code of conduct are set to face fines of up to $250,000, up from $10,000, following publication of new recommendations June 28 by the Independent Advisory Group (IAG).
Maximum fines for misconduct by real estate companies and brokerages should go up to $500,000, up from $20,000.
“We have seen an unprecedented increased in complaints in this fiscal year,” said Maureen Coleman, professional standards adviser at the RECBC.
The IAG recommendations sought to improve the RECBC rather than replace it, and looked at four areas of improvement:
- transparency and ethics;
- compliance and consequences;
- governance and structure; and licensee and
- public education.
The advisory group was critical of the RECBC in terms of enforcement of its code of conduct. The IAG "found the Real Estate Council does not consistently make use of the principles and rules that already exist, to effectively deter misconduct and unethical behaviours that impact on the reputation and confidence in the industry," according to the report.
"In some instances, the Real Estate Council interprets its jurisdiction narrowly and appears reluctant to intervene, where it needs to be proactive and authoritative to head off problems earlier."
The report was also critical of some council members, saying, "It is our view that some industry members voted to council may not fully appreciate that their role is to serve the council's public interest mandate and not the interests of their peers or local board.
"We believe the time has come to rebalance that industry voice with other perspectives."
The IAG was appointed to look into misconduct in the real estate industry and the RECBC’s handling of such matters by the by BC’s Superintendent of Real Estate earlier this year. It followed a series of high-profile media stories on “shadow-flipping” that undermined public confidence in the real estate industry.
The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) welcomed the new recommendations July 29.
“We look forward to working with our member boards and the Real Estate Council to discuss how best to implement the recommendations in the IAG’s report where we can play a role,” said Deanna Horn, BCREA president.
“REALTORS® take great pride in their profession and adhere to high standards of practice. We are eager to do all we can to ensure that our clients are represented professionally and ethically during real estate transactions."