Watchdog calls for real estate reforms, penalties of up to $250,000

Independent Advisory Group issues findings on alleged wrongdoing by realtors, issues 28 recommendations

Recommendations for reform have been released for B.C.'s real estate industry.

A four-month probe of alleged wrongdoing in the real estate industry has recommended wide-ranging reforms, including higher disciplinary penalties of up to $250,000 for realtor misconduct, and up to $500,000 for agencies.

The Independent Advisory Group chaired by B.C. Superintendent of Real Estate Carolyn Rogers has issued 28 recommendations, many of which are designed to better protect the public from unscrupulous agents.

They call on the Real Estate Council of B.C. to undertake a major overhaul of its practices, implement a new ethics code, add disclosure rules and block licensees from engaging in certain practices.

The investigation came in the wake of revelations of misconduct by realtors in Vancouver’s overheated property market.

Several academics have cited an influx of foreign investment money, mainly from China, as a significant factor driving property prices up beyond the reach of many working people.

“I think what’s going on in British Columbia is that houses are no longer just homes, they are trading as investments, and that puts pressure on a regime that was never designed for that,” Rogers told reporters.

The IAG report lists several reasons for rising prices: a strong economy, people moving to the Lower Mainland from elsewhere in Canada and abroad, buyers “motivated more by investment considerations” than a need for housing, the “self-reinforcing market psychology that takes over in a period of rapidly rising housing prices” and the region’s geographic constraints – water, mountains, the U.S. border and the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The provincial government has already moved to block undisclosed shadow-flipping of contract assignments, where a home is resold at a higher price without the knowledge of the original seller to other buyers, allowing realtors to collect more commissions.

The report recommends those new rules – which requires the return to the original seller of  any additional profit from contract assignment – also extend to sale-by-owner property deals done without realtors to keep shadow flipping from merely retreating to an unregulated part of the market.

Another recommendation would ban realtors from buying or acquiring an interest in a listed property for which they are acting as agent.

It also would compel high-volume “opportunistic” buying of property directly from owners – sometimes known as wholesaling – to be subject to licensing standards.

A confidential complaints reporting system should be set up, it said, to encourage those in the industry or the public to raise concerns without fear of retaliation.

One of the recommendations would end dual agency, where a realtor can act for both the buyer and seller in a transaction.

The IAG report criticizes the Real Estate Council for failing to adequately enforce the rules it already has against unethical behaviour, noting it took little action against agents who were found not to be complying with other regulations, such as reporting requirements to counter money laundering.

The penalties go up from a current maximum of $10,000 for realtor misconduct and $20,000 for brokerages. Those have been denounced as rarely enforced, and merely a cost of doing business when they are.

The advisory group did not contemplate ending self-regulation of the real estate industry entirely.

“Ultimately that is a decision that only government can make,” the report says.

But it calls for at least half of the council’s 17 members to be appointed from outside the industry.

The province is expected to announce more measures tomorrow.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong has previously signalled he intends to keep the industry on a short leash.

“The report is a comprehensive examination of the practices and challenges plaguing the real estate industry right now, and paints a troubling picture,” de Jong said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

The benchmark price of detached houses in the Greater Vancouver area topped $1.5 million in May, up 37 per cent from a year ago.

The report cautions its recommendations are to ensure buyers and sellers are treated fairly but they are unlikely to stem Metro Vancouver’s soaring home prices,

Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver president Dan Morrison said “stress cracks” in the system have opened from the rapid rise in prices, shining a spotlight on a few bad apples.

“The volume and what’s been happening in the market has created a situation that nobody anticipated,” Morrison said. “We’re happy to fix those problems to restore the public’s faith in our profession.”

IAG Report June2016 by Jeff Nagel

Just Posted

Active police incident in Langford prompts police to request nearby residents stay inside

West Shore RCMP ask public to avoid Station Avenue and Peatt Road area

CRD holding off repairing Sooke Potholes viewing area after winter landslide

Area likely to experience continued failure of slope, officials say

City of Victoria to hold formal safety review after man was left hanging from raised bridge

More and more people seen ignoring safety measurements in place, city staff say

Work to begin on John Phillips Memorial Park loo

Sooke council gives final approval

VIDEO: Missing teens named as suspects in three northern B.C. killings

Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky are wanted in the deaths of Lucas Fowler, Chynna Deese, unknown man

Vancouver Island teacher suspended for professional misconduct

Grade 8 shop teacher admits to use of vulgar language and profanities toward students, parents

Northern B.C. double homicide, suspicious death: A timeline of what we know

Two teens from Port Alberni are now wanted Canada-wide in connection to the three deaths

B.C. wine industry legend Harry McWatters dies

Among his accomplishments, McWatters founded the province’s first estate winery, Sumac Ridge Estate

Provincial health body refuses to release full findings of cancer triage system audit

Information and Privacy Commissioner asked to review redactions

Southern resident killer whale died of blunt trauma, likely from ship

J34 was found more than two years ago near Sechelt, but the necropsy findings have now been released

B.C. rail crossing death highlights risks for people in wheelchairs: watchdog

Transportation Safety Board points to ‘persistent risks faced by persons using assistive devices’

POLL: Do you use a food delivery app?

With modern life becoming more hectic with each passing day and so… Continue reading

B.C. teens wanted in double homicide, suspicious death spotted in Manitoba

Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky were thought to have been seen in the Gillam area

Most Read